Teacher professional development key to boosting attainment and retention


Quality professional development for teachers has a greater impact on pupil attainment than extending the school day or performance-related pay, a new report has claimed.

According to the Education Policy Institute and Ambition Institute, 35 hours of top-quality continuing professional development (CPD) a year could impact heavily on both attainment and teacher retention.

The report, commissioned by Wellcome, suggested that such a level of CPD is nearly the equivalent of having a teacher with a decade of classroom experience.

Given the potential benefits to pupils and teachers, the study focused on the impacts of professional development by reviewing past studies, using random controlled trials and select interventions.

Positive impacts on learning

Based on 42 studies, professional development interventions were widely lauded as having a “positive effect on student learning” as a result of the upskilling of teaching staff.

Mean effect sizes were used to calculate the benefits of various interventions, with professional development outscoring both enhancing performance-related pay and making the school day longer.

However, providing one-to-one tutoring and having highly experienced classroom teachers was deemed more important to overall pupil outcomes.

Based on the results, the report suggests that CPD “has the potential to close most of the gap between the effectiveness of novice and experienced teachers”.

Such measures may also be more cost effective, especially when compared to costs associated with providing one-to-one tutoring.

Putting CPD in the spotlight

James Zuccollo, director for school workforce at the Education Policy Institute, suggested that CPD is not always the first consideration for schools.

“Teacher development programmes compare favourably with other cost education interventions, but can be overlooked as a route to improving young people’s outcomes,” he said.

Providing CPD has another benefit too, with the report adding that it boosts staff retention when professional development opportunities are available, especially among teachers who are just starting life in the classroom.

Mr Zuccollo added that education policymakers need to “explore how they can improve teachers’ access to high-quality support programmes, given concerns that they are not always available.