March 2014


  • The state of independence
    Autonomy isn’t a new concept for schools and colleges but its success in the long-term depends on everyone being honest about what it means and costs, as well as the provision of safeguards for schools and colleges that get into difficulty, says Brian Lightman. More
  • Be prepared
    Leora Cruddas suggests some key activities for schools and colleges to undertake ahead of changes to the curriculum, assessment and qualifications. More
  • Premium: Make it pay
    The Pupil Premium gives us a huge opportunity to change for the better the lives of poor and disadvantaged young people, says John Dunford. We need to exploit it to the full. More
  • A head for heights?
    The profession needs more outstanding heads but they won’t materialise unless we ensure that teachers can access top-quality development from the moment that they set foot on the career ladder, argues Ian Bauckham. It is up to leaders to seize the initiative. More
  • Meaningful dialogue
    Better parent-school relationships can have a profound impact on pupil attainment, particularly for those in disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, says Professor Sonia Blandford. More
  • Widening the leadership horizon
    Today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow. We need to help them understand the world beyond theirs and how their lives and roles overlap with other communities, or tensions will continue to arise when cultures collide, says Ken Swan. More
Bookmark and Share

The profession needs more outstanding heads but they won’t materialise unless we ensure that teachers can access top-quality development from the moment that they set foot on the career ladder, argues Ian Bauckham. It is up to leaders to seize the initiative.

A head for heights?

At the North of England Education Conference in January, Minister of State for Schools David Laws outlined a new scheme – initially dubbed the ‘Champions League’ but now, thankfully, renamed ‘Talented Leaders’ – to recruit outstanding heads into schools where getting the best leadership is difficult. ASCL supported the initiative during its genesis and it can only be welcomed: Supporting schools in areas of persistent challenge, now often outside the large cities and especially in some coastal areas, remains a priority if we are to improve education further.

However, we need to turn to the other end of the teaching profession as well if we are to address the under-supply of strong headteachers. A vocation to lead does not suddenly appear; it is nurtured and grows from the very early days in the classroom, as well as during the initial training experience.

As a profession, it is vitally important that we focus on improving further both Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and ongoing development for all teachers. We also need to acknowledge that these are not separate phases but part of the same continuum of professional growth. If teachers do little by way of professional development for a decade or two, other, perhaps, than attend the odd exam board training day or even the occasional angst-ridden Ofsted preparation session, then even the best leadership training is unlikely to generate a cadre of demanding, imaginative and morally driven potential school leaders.

Some may not agree that inspection is the way to drive improvement, but it is surely helpful nonetheless that Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, speaking at the same conference, highlighted ITT and the problem of large-scale haemorrhaging of teachers from the profession in the early years after qualification. He said: “The disconnect between providers and schools, between theory and practice, between what training too often is and what is actually needed, has bedevilled our education system for far too long.”

As schools are asked to take on more and more responsibility for teacher training, it is a good time to review our vision for professional development from day one in the job right up to headship. As leaders, we need to seize the initiative.

Subject knowledge

One approach would be to create a roadmap for professional development, year by year or stage by stage, for all teachers in the school. This could include areas and levels of competence, professional experiences and opportunities, access to types of training, standards to be achieved and opportunities for different types of leadership, within and beyond the school. Importantly, the development of subject knowledge and subject associations and their application to teaching should be central. The Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI), in particular, specialises in this kind of training.

Linked to the eight standards for teachers, which themselves require interpretation for each stage of a teacher’s development, such a professional roadmap would provide a more convincing answer to that stock question that potential newly qualified teachers (NQTs) ask at interview: “What professional development would be available to me if I came to this school?” It would also generate a professional development ethos: Structured continuing professional development (CPD) would be an expectation for all staff and it would be a two-way process that is school-based and linked to ever-improving professional effectiveness.

Each school would need to scope out its career roadmap to suit its context, priorities and resources, but there are some common elements that may apply to many schools.

HE links

School-based ITT now often offers a choice of gaining only Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or a full PGCE. For the PGCE, even if the school or partnership is a SCITT (host of School-Centred Initial Teacher Training), university accreditation is needed. The advantages to the trainee of a PGCE are greater portability, particularly in Scotland or overseas, a potentially more developed theoretical content and, often, Master’s level credits.

Whichever choice is made by or for trainees, schools may want to consider how to promote higher education (HE) as part of the career roadmap. It could be, for example, that trainees will be expected to build on their PGCE by the end of year 3, 4 or 5 and secure a full Master’s, along with the school-based research project that a Master’s will entail. The advent of e-learning means that schools are not restricted to choosing a university nearby for this. Some school and academy chains already expect all senior leaders to have or be engaged in post-Master’s or doctoral level research degrees.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are now well-established practices in many schools. They can be more powerful still when they are linked to active and reflective peer observation, using a process such as Lesson Study. Engagement in such a programme, or, indeed, leadership of it, could be identified as an expectation for teachers at a variety of stages.

Some schools offer a programme of themed training courses, often peer-delivered and running over several sessions across the whole school year. Topics can be diverse, from the practical ‘on the job’ (running a school visit, organising a school production, managing challenging behaviour and so on) to the more theoretical (implications of cognitive psychology for teaching) with everything in-between. Participation in and leadership of such in-school training could be a marker in the professional roadmap for all teachers.

Experiences such as job shadowing, deputising for more senior colleagues, learning visits to other schools (preferably in pairs or triads to maximise learning) and visits to partner schools with considered reflection afterwards, could form the basis of a briefing or discussion with colleagues and may also be built into the roadmap.

Link to career progression

It is important that a professional development plan is not just a series of experiences for teachers, but has a harder edge and is linked to what is expected in terms of growing professional effectiveness. This is all the more important in the world of tight performance management and performance-related pay.

Each year, and at intermediate reviews, teachers’ progress should be benchmarked against the expectations of the professional development roadmap, in terms both of what they have engaged in or led and how that is improving their practice. Professional development, however well mapped out, which is not linked to career progression, is likely to be quickly marginalised.

Using descriptors from the Ofsted framework and the standards for teachers, expectations of teacher performance in terms of teaching and wider school contribution need to be identified at each stage and cross-referenced to the professional development and leadership expectations and opportunities.

Securing measurable progress from students cannot be ducked either. While a mechanistic and direct link between professional development and exam results would not reflect the complexity of professional development, to ignore a measurable affect on outcomes would make professional development seem like an optional irrelevance.


What about evaluation? If we are to invest much more in the professional growth of teachers from day one, it is important that the provision is evaluated. Each individual session or course can be evaluated and a close consideration of the hierarchy of Thomas Guskey’s five levels would help in that. (Thomas R. Guskey is a professor of education policy studies and evaluation, College of Education, University of Kentucky, Taylor Education Building, Lexington, KY 40506, and author of Evaluating Professional Development (Corwin Press, 2000).

More widely, teacher retention and promotion, from new recruits to teaching right up to senior leadership, quality of teaching across the school and, yes, student progress and outcomes in exams and wider aspects of learning, would form the core of a whole-school evaluation.

As each school seizes the initiative and develops its own vision for encompassing professional development for all, from initial teacher education to headship and beyond, it is important to remember the underlying aims: creating a reflective, informed, engaged and self-challenging teaching workforce.

  • Ian Bauckham is ASCL President.

How can ASCL PD help?

Our range of events provides advice, guidance and practical help to colleagues at all stages of their journey to leadership. Many are linked in order to provide a pathway through the programme, so you may begin with attendance at a conference and then move on to a more advanced course. Our consultancy service provides bespoke programmes for individual schools, groups, trusts and clusters, allowing for a completely tailor-made approach to match specific needs. Our CPD is truly flexible, ranging from twilights and half-days to full days and longer. Our experienced consultants are able to help with virtually any area of school or college improvement or professional development.