Teachers want to be treated as respected professionals. Whether we look at the research from LKMco or the National Foundation for Educational Research, the keys to gaining and keeping teachers are engagement, support and respectful leadership. Underneath these lie two key factors: professional development and management. The former can be split into professional learning and career development while, for management, we can focus on workload, monitoring and participatory decision-making.
We know that professional learning can be neglected and/or badly designed; this was a key driver behind the Department for Education’s commissioning of a new Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development from the CPD Expert Group, which I chaired. Our goal was to translate the research into what works into some clear guidelines. We knew that if more schools get this right then not only will pupils benefit from better learning but we will also raise morale. Putting these ideas into practice requires expert support – something that the Teacher Development Trust has been doing since we were founded in 2012.
Reducing the burden on teachers
Career development has often been haphazard but we know that many teachers will choose to join (or leave) a school due to the development opportunities available. Too many schools focus only on development through leadership pathways but we are, fortunately, seeing a resurgence of interest in pathways for teachers and teaching specialists. The new Chartered College of Teaching, led by Dame Alison Peacock, will have a strong role to play here. It will certainly help schools to engage with this new body if they want to take recruitment and retention seriously.
When it comes to workload and monitoring I think the DfE did a great job with their workload reports. They give very sensible ideas to reduce the burden on teachers which has stemmed from old-fashioned ideas around accountability. In particular, to keep and attract the best teachers schools will increasingly have to show that they take this seriously, significantly cutting expectations around marking, data-entry and paper-based lesson planning to make more time for professional dialogue, CPD and work-life balance.
The final element involves changing management style. Teachers want to feel engaged, not micro-managed. The best schools use teachers’ diverse perspectives, classroom intelligence and professional knowledge to co-create routines, CPD and school development plans. The old-fashioned notion of a school driven by a development plan written by senior leaders and imposed from the top is, happily, fading. This can give space for teachers and other professionals to feel a greater sense of ownership; it ensures greater alignment of purpose and it builds long-term capacity for improvement as well as a secure plan for successions.
Find out more at http://TDTrust.org or at @TeacherDevTrust on Twitter