We need to help teachers reach the highest heights

17th March 2017 at 00:00
Regardless of the career pathway a colleague chooses, they should feel supported throughout in a culture of embedded development

Having been national schools commissioner for just over a year now, I’ve found one of the best aspects has been the chance to talk with leaders and teachers about their practice in different settings. Developing a talented team of professionals who lead the learning of young people is essential in a self-improving system, which means we must create a strategy and structure that enables us to help staff to become the best professionals they can be at whatever stage of their career they are at.

Some of the most effective practice I have seen in multi-academy trusts (MATs) and teaching school alliances focuses on the sequential staging of staff professional development over several years. This works alongside a performance management model and looks at development over time rather than one academic year in isolation.

In these examples, teachers and leaders agree a personal development plan that includes an entitlement to training and opportunities to develop across their school and MATs or teaching school alliances. So this might include examples of where teachers work together as a team of lead practitioners to provide peer support to other classroom teachers or where teams are created across several schools to develop classroom resources and pedagogy strategies.

These experiences blend teaching and leadership development, and whether a young teacher aspires to become a leader or not, this work is a powerful lever to develop individual practice.

Very personal development

A personal development plan should belong to the individual and, even if they leave their trust, they take it with them as evidence of their progress. It also acts as an indicator of the type of development they want their new employer to support them with.

Leadership and classroom practice should not be seen as binary

All of this should build upon the first two to three years in a newly qualified teacher’s career, where the best organisations plan the training that develops the skills and confidence for them to become a consistently good teacher. As the education secretary has said, maintaining and strengthening qualified teacher status and initial teacher training is “the foundation stone for the teaching profession to build on”, and helps to ensure that we retain the best and brightest in the key first years.

While we need good and outstanding teachers to carry on doing what they do best – teaching – leadership and classroom practice should not be seen as binary.

I see many fantastic teachers taking leadership decisions in their classrooms every day, and impressive leaders continuing to teach well and develop the confidence of the teachers they lead. This is where the newly announced Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund comes in: it will support programmes in 12 opportunity areas, as well as other areas of need across the country, as identified by the education secretary. This fund will enable new, high-quality CPD provision to be delivered where it can make the most difference.

Regardless of the career pathway a teacher chooses, our colleagues in schools must feel supported through a career-long culture of embedded learning and development.

Sir David Carter is the national schools commissioner

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