Of the three main parties, the Liberal Democrats manifesto puts the biggest emphasis on the continuing professional development of teachers. The party’s document highlights the number of staff leaving the profession. After blaming workload and funding cuts, it says the Lib Dems want to “empower teachers and make sure they feel valued”, and to “support and nurture teachers in their work”.
This pledge translates into a commitment to “introduce a clear and properly funded entitlement to genuinely high-quality professional development for all teachers – 25 hours per year by 2020, rising to the OECD average of 50 hours by 2025”.
However, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has responded by citing research it recently carried out, which found that secondary school teachers in England already spent an average of four days a year on CPD in 2013. The thinktank says this is “broadly equivalent to”, and perhaps higher than, the Lib Dems’ aim for 2020, but acknowledges that the quality of existing CPD may be a problem.
It adds: “The main ambition would therefore seem to be to ensure all teachers receive a basic level of training, rather than delivering an immediate step change across the board. That may be wise in advance of wider improvements in CPD: research has shown that England’s teachers do not tend to rate the impact of their formal development activities highly.”
Sarah Olney, the party’s education spokesperson, says the commitment to high-quality CPD would be backed by £165 million in funding over the course of the next parliament. She puts the commitment to CPD in the context of improving pupil attainment, saying it would benefit those from more disadvantaged backgrounds in particular.
“We want to see all teachers properly valued and respected for the essential work they do,” says Olney. “Yet, at the moment, too many teachers feel overworked and undervalued. We know many are being pushed into leaving the career they love because of the impossible pressures they are under.
“If the next government doesn’t act to stop this, they will be letting down our teachers and our pupils.”