Looking ahead to the coming year, I’m thinking about where we are in our system in the UK and how things stand in relation to teacher development. I found myself doing a good old-fashioned mental SWOT analysis. Here it is – in summary:
•Recognition of importance of CPD cycles
•Growing prominence of evidence-informed instructional teaching.
•Understanding of cognitive science and implications for teaching
•Availability of frameworks for teaching
•Growing development of instructional coaching
•Sensible repositioning of lesson observations.
•Time given to CPD – still often too irregular.
•Insufficient attention to pedagogy-curriculum links.
•Tendency to flit around and overload the agenda. •Persistence of ‘formal observation’ undermining spirit of developmental CPD.
•Rushed teaching of overloaded curriculum leading to weak foundations
•Some lethal mutations e.g. retrieval practice.
•Range of sources supporting evidence-informed teaching – books, events, programmes, social media
•Relative curriculum stability – time to focus on better resources, scaffolds, assessments, explanations, reading material
•Growing understanding of CPD as ‘mechanisms’ supporting team coaching and other group structures.
•Recruitment and retention
– Teachers developing over time
– Middle leaders with curriculum experience and team leadership capability.
•Persistent accountability fears; perverse incentives
•Curriculum tinkering and politicians talking up the ‘21stcentury skills’ agenda
In writing this I’m amalgamating all the interactions I’ve had with schools over the last year. Obviously there is variation and not all the issues apply to all schools, most of which are on a journey. If you had to summarise further, there are two opposing waves:
The Positive Wave: the great optimism is the energy surrounding professional learning which is just epic – the best it’s ever been; very exciting to be involved in and certainly a beacon in our system. I think the UK is a world-leader in professional development in many ways; certainly the best practice is superb and there’s a wave of creativity, action and sharing of practice that is spreading ever further. I am biased by my own experience but I am continually blown away by the enthusiasm teachers have for curriculum design, for applying cognitive science ideas or reviewing how they do questioning or how to model and scaffold key ideas in their subjects. It’s a brilliant time to be a teacher for these reasons.
The Negative Wave: the great pessimism is around recruitment and retention. In places, pay and persistent issues with unintelligent accountability, poor behaviour and unreasonable workload continue to turn people away and across the country too many schools are having to focus too much of their energy just to put a reasonably competent adult in front of every class. It’s depressing to see. This has knock-ons with the confidence and competence of some middle leaders who are not nearly as knowledgeable about curriculum, assessment as they need to be – combined with having the people skills necessary to drive improvement. It’s tough job and people are often thrown in at the deep end prematurely.
I hope that in 2023, system leaders can build on the positive wave.. the strengths and opportunities… and together with the politicians, do something to reverse the direction of teacher recruitment. A truly fantastic school system is there for the taking if we just keep teachers for longer and attract stronger fields for every position. We have to talk up the profession and then treat teachers like the precious assets that they are once we have them.