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Ofsted: Teachers ‘underwhelmed’ by training opportunities

There are gaps in the “golden thread” and considerable numbers of teachers are “underwhelmed” by development opportunities, Ofsted has said.

Less than half of teachers surveyed also felt their training was “high quality, relevant or sufficient”, a report published this morning by the watchdog found.

It follows the introduction of the early career framework (ECF) in 2019 and new national professional qualifications (NPQs) in 2021.

Ofsted chief Sir Martyn Oliver said: “It is important that all teachers benefit from development opportunities, based on the best available evidence.

Sir Martyn Oliver

“I am pleased to be able to report that the [ECF and NPQs] are providing teachers with well-constructed and effective development opportunities.”

The watchdog published its first study on professional development last May. It found mounting workloads were “getting in the way” of the government’s flagship training and development reforms.

Here are the key findings from its second – and final – study…

1. Underwhelmed teachers

Twelve months ago, Ofsted reported only 40 per cent of teachers and leaders were “satisfied with their training offer”.

This time, the proportion who felt the training they received over the last year “was high quality, relevant or sufficient” was still less than half.

The watchdog found just 41 per cent believed their professional development “was arranged into a coherent programme”.

“It remains concerning that a considerable proportion of teachers were underwhelmed by their recent training and development opportunities,” the report said.

“Typically, this was less of an issue for ECTs [early career teachers] and for teachers studying for an NPQ, who were more positive that their recent teacher development had been of high quality.”

2. Workload barriers

Eighty-seven per cent of teachers cited workload pressures as a factor preventing them from taking part in professional development. This was up from 85 per cent last year.

“Other research suggests that teachers frequently work significantly more than their contracted hours,” the report stated. “This can make it extremely challenging for them to find adequate time to undertake professional development.”

While the proportion of teachers and leaders citing the cost to schools as a barrier fell from 73 per cent to 65 per cent, some reported the expense “is becoming prohibitive”.

3. Focus on ‘crisis management’

These barriers meant leaders “were not always able to invest in and develop longer-term strategic programmes of professional development”.

Around half of schools “focused on arranging short-term and ad-hoc crisis management” training in response to emerging issues, like safeguarding and pupil wellbeing.

The programmes were often “poorly designed”, had “limited long-term benefits” and heightened workload pressures.

Last year, 30 per cent of respondents said they needed more professional development in “teaching students with SEND”.

The number receiving training in this area has “increased significantly” since then. However, Ofsted said these sessions “may not always be meeting their needs” because staff “already knew the content, or because it was too generic”.

4. Gaps in golden thread

Access to high-quality and relevant professional development “varied according to a teacher’s role, contract type and length of tenure in the profession”.

ECTs, those studying for an NPQ and leaders suggested their opportunities were “high quality”. But part-timers and experienced teachers not in a top job “were less likely to say that they had received a satisfactory” development offer.

The watchdog added that it “heard from many teachers about how access to training opportunities ‘drops off’ after the early stages” of a career.

“Given the many barriers and challenges that schools face in providing professional development to staff, it appears that leaders are having to make difficult decisions about which staff’s professional development should be prioritised.”

5. Special schools face greater challenge

Researchers visited five special schools and found “unique challenges”.

One of which was staff having to “take multiple training courses, often around safeguarding or medical aspects, to ensure they can fulfil their duty of care”.

This was cited as a “constraining factor” by teachers and leaders, having to attend sessions during evenings, weekends and holidays.

They were also “more reluctant” to attend development opportunities in school hours as their pupils “found it difficult to adapt to a new teacher”.

Despite this, leaders often “drew on internal expertise” and were involved in “strong practitioner networks” to strengthen development opportunities.

They also “took account of all support staff when devising their training and development offers”. This meant support staff felt “more valued” and “were better able to fulfil their roles”.

6. Best schools ‘more innovative’

Ofsted noted that the “most effective” settings used “innovative” methods of providing teacher development by investing in “long-term strategic planning”.

Some multi-academy trusts also helped mitigate barriers, with schools drawing on additional resources from the MAT, like supply cover, to improve access to training.

Meanwhile, other chains provided their own development courses and had networks “that focused on sharing knowledge and developing teaching practice”.

7. ECF teething problems remain

The report stated that “many aspects” of the ECF are “positive”. Despite this, some issues have persisted.

ECTs mentioned that parts of the framework “were not relevant to them”. In some cases it was because they thought the content repeated what they had already learned.

But the watchdog said the does this deliberately, as “revisiting key concepts is considered important for consolidating knowledge and skills”.

In the five special schools, ECTs “considered the case study content from lead providers to be irrelevant”.

“This created additional workload for special schools on several fronts. It meant that leaders often had to invest more resources in creating bespoke training for ECT mentors.”

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