Our CEO, David Weston, reflects on today’s publications.

Headteachers have never been more under pressure, more stressed and more taken up by day-to-day operational matters, let alone the impact that the current pandemic is having on them and their families. Every school leader I’ve spoken to has told me, they’ve never seen anything like this. It’s in the spirit of this understanding that today (13th October) sees the launch of the new Headteacher Standards and new frameworks for the National Professional Qualifications, which include new routes for middle leaders. It’s been an honour to sit on the advisory group for the latter frameworks and to have contributed some thinking to the former.

With these current intense pressures and the long-term aims set out in the government’s Recruitment & Retention Strategy, here are five reasons why I’m happy to see today’s publication.

  1. Firstly, it is very sensible for the Department for Education to have published these documents now, giving schools almost a full academic year to prepare for their introduction – there’s clear recognition that existing work will be based on the old versions. There’s no need for anyone to rush to change anything – indeed school leaders will be very busy continuing to deal with the current challenges from COVID. What’s more, DfE is aligning the thinking from these frameworks with the other frameworks published in recent months and years, including the Early Career Framework, the ITT Core Content Framework and, going back a little further, the Standards for Teachers Professional Development.
  2. These new standards and frameworks really raise the bar in terms of the professional development of teachers. They all explicitly reference the Standards for Teachers’ Professional Development and I’m particularly delighted to see the new Standard 6 for Headteachers which asks that Heads:
    • Ensure staff have access to high-quality, sustained professional development opportunities, aligned to balance the priorities of whole-school improvement, team and individual needs.
    • Prioritise the professional development of staff, ensuring effective planning, delivery and evaluation which is consistent with the approaches laid out in the Standards for Teachers’ Professional Development.
    • Ensure that professional development opportunities draw on expert provision from beyond the school, as well as within it, including nationally recognised career and professional frameworks and programmes to build capacity and support succession planning.
  3. There’s a new National Professional Qualification for Leading Teacher Development, so that teachers who are interested in roles such as ITT mentors, lead practitioners, coaches and similar will have a formal training and accreditation route to take up in the future. This new framework looks at the skills, knowledge ad habits needed by a strong practitioner in this area, looking at everything from mentoring/coaching through to strategically planning programmes of professional learning for all staff.
  4. All of the replacement qualifications for middle leaders place a strong emphasis on developing other colleagues. There’s a common section in the frameworks for Leading Behaviour and culture and Leading Teaching. Again, it emphasises the important role of middle leaders in facilitating and supporting the professional learning of their teams.
  5. The revised NPQs for senior leaders, headteachers and executive headteachers place a very strong emphasis on teacher development. With increasingly strategic focus, all three qualifications have a common core thread running through them that places people development at the heart of school improvement and leadership. All frameworks emphasise the need to [Build] a relationship of trust and mutual respect between the individuals involved and [Ensure] that time is protected for teachers to plan, test and implement new, evidence-informed ideas.

There’s no doubt that there’s quite a level of challenge laid out in these new standards and frameworks. But they build on what hundreds of great school leaders are already doing, drawing on the ideas and practices that have been seen in schools right across England, in different contexts, phases and sizes of organisation.

I look forward to seeing how these new documents influence the system in years to come. In the meantime, my organisation, the Teacher Development Trust, will continue to champion School Improvement through People Development, ensuring that every teacher has access to the types of professional learning that help school staff thrive and children & young adults succeed.