Some surprising facts:

  • The most disadvantaged pupils can make 4 to 6 times their ‘normal’ expected progress when their teachers have been involved in high quality professional development and learning.
  • English schools spend, on average, only 0.25% of their budgets, or £8 per pupil per year on developing the classroom skills of their teachers (less than the cost of a single textbook).
  • In a snapshot of teacher’s training provision available nationwide, the TDA found that barely 1% was effective at transforming mediocre classroom practice in to highly effective teaching.

These were just some of the statistics that startled delegates at the launch of the Teacher Development Trust  on Friday 11th May 2012 at a seminar in the Department for Education.  Chair, Mark McCourt, welcome delegates from across the education spectrum to an afternoon of briefing and discussion about the paramount importance of teachers’ professional development in reducing inequality and improving educational outcomes. Delegates included Lord Jim Knight, Sam Freedman (a senior special advisor to Michael Gove), and Lord Ralph Lucas as well as delegates from the Teaching Agency, Education Endowment Fund, Wellcome Foundation, Teaching Leaders, Future Leaders, Challenge Partners and the Unversities’ Council for the Education of Teachers as well as primary and secondary headteachers and professional development leaders.

Chief Executive David Weston made the case that if we’re serious about doing something about our country’s unenviable position both at the bottom of the OECD social mobility rankings and stagnating in the ‘average’ category in PISA for the last decade, then we need to take a new approach that works with our existing teachers and empowers them to more effectively deal with underachievement. There’s extremely strong international research and evidence that shows that schools that treat their teaching staff as professional learners, guided by external expertise, are able to sustainably improve the outcomes for their pupils. It’s also clear that top-down approaches that treat teachers as robots, told what to do and how to do it, are ineffective, in the long term. Motivation by sticks and carrots isn’t enough – the top countries, educationally, in the world (Finland, Singapore, Canada, etc.) demonstrate that clearly.

Internationally renowned researcher Philippa Cordingley, from the Centre for Use of Research Evidence in Education, summarised the international evidence about what makes effective teacher professional development. She explained that teachers need to undertake sustained collaborative work, guided by external expert input, that ensures they can adapt and develop the best methods and ideas for their own classrooms. Collaboration by itself, or external input without the space for teachers to absorb and understand it, just isn’t effective.

David summarised the evidence on the current state of professional development in the UK. As the OECD puts it:

“In the United Kingdom…the quality and nature of continuing training available is very uneven”

We are world-renowned as among the most innovative nations in education, but also have the unenviable reputation as among the worst for systematically embedding these ideas in our schools and classrooms. We spend worryingly small amounts on helping our teachers improve, and, nationally, the majority of that is poorly chosen, ineffectively delivered, and superficially evaluated without thought as to whether it’s actually helping the pupils. Fortunately there is a great deal of hope as among our schools and improve programmes we have some of the best examples of how to do it right.

At the Teacher Development Trust we will ensure that policy-makers, schools, teachers and parents all understand how incredibly important and effective teachers’ professional development is to improve pupils’ learning, and to stimulate a demand for better standards. We’re ensuring access to the best training that the country has to offer via our new national database,, and we’re driving up standards of the courses and consultancy on offer by publishing teacher reviews and creating a new ‘kite-mark’ style quality rating to highlight the best opportunities out there.

David challenged delegates to discuss ways that we can become the world leader in teacher professional development and learning in five years time, bearing in mind that Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore are just some of the nations who are already way ahead of us in this field.

You can see tweets from the event here:

Presentations are available here:

The delegate list and information pack is available here.

For more information please contact David Weston