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A new report from the Education Policy Institute (@EduPolicyInst), commissioned by @WellcomeTrust, finds that giving teachers a formal entitlement to high-quality training and development would only cost the government an extra £210m in funding a year. 

When added to existing school spending on training and development for teachers, the total cost would represent less than 1% of the government’s total budget for schools in England.  

A policy of providing teachers with an entitlement to 35 hours of high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) a year has been shown to bring significant returns in the way of pupil attainment and earnings, and may tackle retention problems in the teaching profession.

But despite these benefits, there is currently no formal entitlement to high quality training offered by the government. Teachers in England currently participate in less CPD than their international counterparts, while the quality of CPD programmes on offer often fails to meet the government’s own standards.

The new EPI study published today [Thursday 15 July], "The cost of high-quality professional development", shows that schools typically spend an average of around £3,000 a year per teacher on CPD, which is already much of the cost of an improved, high quality entitlement to teacher CPD.  

Most schools are found to be spending just under 3% of their school budget on CPD, which is higher than previous estimates.

In order to meet the cost of boosting their current offer with a full entitlement to quality CPD for all teachers, the research shows that schools would have to be able to maintain their current spending levels and commit around an extra £500 per teacher per year on average, taking the spending up to around £3,500.

As a proportion of schools’ average spending, this would also represent an increase in their individual budgets of less than 1%.

With much of the cost already committed by schools, the findings suggest that policymakers should focus their efforts on driving up the quality of existing CPD, so that it is of a far higher standard.

Key findings from the new study

What are the benefits of giving teachers an entitlement to high-quality professional development?

  • EPI research has shown that introducing a formal entitlement for teachers in England to 35 hours of high quality CPD a year would boost pupil attainment by an extra two-thirds of a GCSE grade – which in turn translates to extra lifetime earnings of over £6,000 per pupil.
  • In the short term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to an estimated 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year.
  • Despite these benefits, secondary school teachers in England spend fewer hours a year on CPD compared to other OECD nations, while it is also likely that the majority of CPD currently being provided in England does not meet the criteria for high-quality CPD.

How much do schools currently spend on professional development for teachers?

  • The current cost of teacher professional development differs significantly among schools. It also encompasses not just the direct spending on the CPD training itself, but also the costs to staff time from their participation.
  • Taking this into account, on average, schools in England spend around £3,000 per teacher per year on professional development.
  • The average spending on CPD per teacher is slightly higher for academies than for local authority-maintained schools, with academies spending around £3,050 per teacher per year, compared to around £2,850 for local authority-maintained schools.
  • The vast majority of schools (around 80%) spend just under 3% of their total school budget on teacher CPD each year, which is higher than previous estimates.

How much more is needed to fund a formal entitlement to CPD for all teachers?

The cost of a CPD entitlement policy to schools:

  • In order to fund a policy entitling all teachers to 35 hours of high-quality CPD a year, schools would need to be adequately funded in order to maintain current spending levels, and then spend around an extra £500 per teacher per year more, taking total spending to around £3,500 per teacher per year.
  • This is not significantly more than schools already spend on CPD – the difference of an extra £500 on average represents a 17% increase in CPD spending for schools.
  • As a proportion of schools’ own budgets, this would only be an increase of less than 1%.
  • The present level of spending on CPD means that 83% of schools would need to increase their expenditure to cover the cost of the entitlement.
  • With significant variation on spending on CPD among schools, some schools will need to increase spending by more much than others. Smaller schools are likely to face higher costs than larger schools.

The cost of a CPD entitlement policy to the government:

  • In order to fund the increased spending required by schools, the government would need to spend an extra £210m a year – which taken together with existing spending on CPD, is less than 1% of its total budget for schools in England.
  • This relatively small difference indicates that the current level of spending on CPD may be nearly sufficient to fund a policy of a CPD entitlement for teachers.
  • If the entitlement policy were to be implemented, policymakers should therefore focus their attention not only on increasing CPD spending to fund the entitlement, but also on improving the quality of CPD currently provided.

Sector Reaction

James Zuccollo, report author and Director for School Workforce at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“We already know that high-quality professional development for teachers is likely to bring significant benefits to pupils in the way of increased attainment and lifetime earnings.

“Now, our new research tells us that the cost is very much achievable and does not have to be expensive for the government and for schools. A CPD entitlement policy for all teachers in England would cost the government just over £200 million a year – representing a total of less than 1% of its overall schools budget.

“This means that rather than spending big on additional CPD for teachers, the government could meet this commitment by largely improving on the quality of the existing CPD training that teachers participate in. With relatively low costs and large potential returns, the government should continue to look at how it can drive up the quality of its CPD offer for teachers.”

Nan Davies, Education and Learning Lead at Wellcome, said:

"The role of high-quality professional development for teachers in improving outcomes for both teachers and pupils is well documented. This important report from the Education Policy Institute shows that an entitlement to a minimum amount – 35 hours annually – of high-quality professional development is achievable and would be cost effective."

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"We welcome the EPI’s clear findings that high quality CPD for teachers is both needed and cost-effective. Teachers have been denied normal CPD in the past two academic years due to Covid, but this entitlement would mark a step-change in the CPD provision for all teachers. It is, as the EPI points out, a key factor in retaining teachers, to improve how they are valued as professionals. 

"The DfE will point to the early career framework and new National Professional Qualifications it has in development, but we call for high quality CPD for all teachers at all stages of their careers. It is crucial that teachers are trusted as professionals and their CPD needs and interests identified collaboratively, rather than purely as part of a whole-school or government-led agenda. 

"The cost, as estimated by the EPI, is affordable to government and should be funded centrally; individual schools are struggling to balance the books but the government should value the benefit this would bring to children and young people, by valuing teachers and investing in them." 

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said:

“A key recommendation in our 2020 report ‘Improving Schools’ was that there should be a properly funded, national entitlement to high quality professional development for teachers and leaders. The evidence is clear – quality of teaching is, by a country mile, the most important driver of educational equity. Continuously improving core provision is likely to have significantly more impact on educational recovery than headline grabbing ‘add-ons’ to the school day.

“In addition to setting out the benefits of such an approach, this report shows that it is financially achievable as well. Put simply, the best contribution that government could make to support continuous improvement in schools is to value and invest in the profession.”

 Today's report follows a cost-benefit analysis study from EPI in April 2021, and a review of the evidence on the impact of CPD in 2020, both commissioned by Wellcome. 


Half of school leaders say CPD is "extremely important" to post-pandemic school recovery 

15th Jun 2021: New findings released by The Key reveal that 88% of school leaders surveyed believe CPD is either “extremely important” (50%) or “important” (38%) to the post-pandemic recovery of their school. Indeed, nearly half (44%) shared that they plan to increase their CPD provision in the coming year - with only 4% expecting to do less.

  • New survey of school leaders reveals 97% believe access to good CPD is the key to encouraging people to stay in the profession
  • 44% of leaders plan to up their CPD provision in the coming year
  • The Key launches new digital CPD platform to accelerate the sharing of peer-to-peer best practice

Noting the importance of CPD to the education sector, 97%* shared a view that having access to good CPD is an important factor for encouraging staff to stay in the profession. The forms of CPD most-valued by leaders included “peer-to-peer support from staff at other schools” (33%) and “inviting external speakers into school” (24%). 

The findings, gathered from over 960 school leaders, have been released to coincide with the launch of a new digital CPD platform from The Key, designed to accelerate the sharing of peer-to-peer best practice as leaders move forward from  recovery to a position of strength. IdeaStream from The Key, puts the most knowledgeable school leaders and their best practice at the fingertips of school staff, through streamed live events and on-demand talks.

“We recognise that CPD is going to play a big role in supporting leaders as they emerge determinedly from the pandemic and guide their schools back to strength,’ said Nicola West Jones, Head of Market Research at The Key.

“But we also recognise that the pandemic has completely changed expectations of how CPD can be delivered. We’ve seen first-hand how powerful the sharing of just one great idea can be for solving problems in hundreds of other schools. Having on-demand access to a virtual roster of school leaders and sector experts means leaders can now lean on their peers for support, whenever they need to, in order to drive positive change in their schools.”

Just 9% of school leaders in the survey indicated a preference for returning to in-person CPD provision (such as conferences) post-pandemic. Two-thirds (67%) are keen to use a combination of both online and in-person - and nearly a quarter (23%) want to keep their CPD online only in the future.

Reflecting on the last year, nearly half of leaders (44%) shared that their staff had done less like-for-like CPD than usual in the last 12 months, as schools focused on supporting their pupils and communities through the pandemic. Furthermore, respondents noted a number of challenges in relation to pre-pandemic CPD, including the cost of CPD (58%), finding the right CPD for individual needs (43%) and the quality of CPD provision available (34%).


Giving teachers the right to quality training and development would boost pupil outcomes 

28th Apr 2021: Giving teachers an entitlement to training and development would boost pupil attainment and may stem exodus from the profession, new study shows.

  • Major study shows providing teachers with an entitlement to high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) would boost pupil attainment by two-thirds of a GCSE grade and increase future earnings.
  • Overall a £4bn programme delivering high quality CPD could generate a net societal benefit of £61bn – provided the policy is rolled-out effectively at a national level.
  • Offering a CPD entitlement of 35 hours a year to teachers could also boost retention, resulting in up to 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession each year.
  • Teachers in England currently participate in little CPD by international standards – 43 hours a year compared to the OECD average of 62 hours. Many programmes fail to meet government quality standards – just 11% did in a recent pilot.
  • The government should deliver on its pledge to put teacher development at the heart of its forthcoming education recovery programme, and continue to consider policies which improve the quantity and quality of teacher CPD.  

Providing teachers with a right to high-quality training and development would boost pupil attainment and earnings, and may tackle retention problems in the profession, a major cost-benefit analysis study from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) commissioned by Wellcome has shown.

While continuing professional development (CPD) can be important to ensuring teacher quality and progression, there is currently no formal entitlement to high quality support offered by the government.

Teachers in England currently participate in less CPD than their international counterparts, while the quality of CPD programmes on offer often fails to meet government standards.

The new report, "The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students: A cost-benefit analysis" finds that a well-implemented policy of 35 hours a year of high quality CPD for teachers would lead to significant benefits for pupils, including an extra two-thirds of a GCSE grade – improving their lifetime earnings by over £6,000.

The EPI cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that in total, a CPD entitlement programme costing £4bn would generate a net societal benefit of around £61bn through higher earnings – a benefit 19 times the cost. However, these considerable gains are dependent on the policy being rolled-out effectively on a national scale.

In the immediate term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year. A retention boost of this scale would help to ease the Department for Education’s recurring recruitment problems. Typically, it falls short by around 3,000 teachers a year.

The government is currently exploring plans for improving the CPD offer for teachers as part of its long-term plan to tackle learning loss experienced by pupils as a result of the pandemic.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced this month that training and development for teachers would be “central” to the government’s wider education recovery plan, which is currently being led by the Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins. The plans are expected to be unveiled by the Prime Minister in the coming weeks.

As the government formulates this long-term programme to support both pupils and teachers, today’s study provides timely evidence of the high returns generated from well-implemented, high quality teacher CPD.

Key findings

Professional development can be crucial for teachers, but the quality of programmes is mixed and England lags behind other countries

  • Secondary school teachers in England spend on average just 43 hours a year on CPD –well below the OECD average of 62 hours a year.
  • Despite teachers in England undertaking less CPD than their international counterparts, they still do more than the proposed entitlement of 35 hours each year. However, it is likely that the majority of CPD currently being provided in England does not meet the criteria for high-quality CPD. A recent Wellcome CPD pilot showed that just 11% of CPD taken up by teachers met the government’s quality criteria.

Giving teachers a formal right to high-quality CPD would bring significant returns to both pupils and teachers

  • Introducing a formal entitlement for teachers in England to 35 hours of high quality CPD a year would generate significant benefits for pupils over time in the way of education and employment outcomes.
  • If a pupil started school when the entitlement policy for teachers was introduced, by GCSE level it would lead to an extra two-thirds of a grade – which in turn translates to extra lifetime earnings of over £6,000 per pupil.
  • Overall, taking earnings into account, a programme of 35 hours a year of high-quality CPD for teachers costing £4bn would generate a net societal benefit of around £61bn through increased earnings – a benefit 19 times the cost.
  • In the short term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to an estimated 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year.
  • This retention boost has the potential to reduce a significant proportion of the 40,000 teachers who typically leave the profession every year.  A retention boost of this kind would also help the Department for Education meet its teacher recruitment targets, which it usually falls short of by around 3,000 a year.
  • There is some evidence suggesting that improving access to high-quality CPD for teachers could improve both teacher and pupil wellbeing – but this is difficult to quantify, and more research is required to establish this.

But to deliver these benefits, a CPD entitlement policy for teachers would have to be rolled-out effectively by the government

  • The benefits of an entitlement policy are however highly contingent on the policy being implemented effectively by the government. To realise the full extent of these benefits, a CPD entitlement policy at a national level would have to be implemented as effectively as existing, smaller-scale CPD programmes.
  • Any reduction in effectiveness compared to those programmes would dramatically reduce the potential benefits of the policy.
  • The most important element of implementation of the policy is the quality of CPD seen by teachers, rather than the quantity. Identifying high quality CPD is crucial for effective implementation. Better government data on teacher CPD is required to monitor the impact of any CPD policy changes – current data for England does not indicate the proportion of CPD which qualifies as high quality.

Sector Reaction 

James Zuccollo, report author and Director for School Workforce at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“Providing training and development to teachers is crucial to ensuring quality and stability in the profession, but teachers in England engage in far less professional development compared to other countries and many programmes fail to meet the government’s own quality standards.

“Our research shows that high-quality professional development could prove cost effective. If the government can get the delivery and quality of the programme right, such an entitlement would significantly boost pupil attainment and future earnings. In the short term, the policy also has the potential to halt a large number of teachers leaving the profession.

“Government reforms to teacher training and the development of new professional qualifications are a step in the right direction, but it must continue to improve access to high-quality professional development to realise the benefits shown in our research. We hope that positive reforms to professional development are included in the government’s long-term education recovery programme.”

Nan Davies, Education and Learning Lead at Wellcome, said:

“This is an important and timely report from the Education Policy Institute. Supporting teachers to participate in career-long professional development to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people is essential, and even more so as the UK ‘builds back’ after the pandemic.

“The study illustrates very clearly the significant potential benefits of entitling teachers to 35 hours annually of high-quality professional development, which makes a compelling case to embed this in government policy.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"The NEU agrees that a boost to the amount of high quality CPD teachers receive would be extremely welcome by the profession and a good step in improving retention. We have long called for teachers to be valued as professionals and the right CPD at the right time is key to this. 

"However, there are many factors at play in teacher retention. Teachers and leaders will wonder when they are going to find the time to engage in good quality CPD in a working week that is already over-full and driven by accountability processes which do not enhance pupil learning. 

"For schools to offer effective CPD to all staff, the government must make a specific and realistic financial commitment; schools are cash stretched and therefore time poor. Decisions to agree time out of class for CPD, no matter how valuable, are made on financial considerations, the training cost itself and the cover needed. 

"However, a set number of CPD hours is at risk of becoming a tick-box exercise. The best CPD is focused, timely, and based on the individual’s needs and aspirations. It comes in many forms and a range of options neds to be available for teachers throughout their careers. Our members tell us that too much time is taken up with learning how to implement the latest government edict, or on courses with limited value for their teaching. Any entitlement based on hours must allow for a broad range of learning for teachers and must include opportunities to evaluate the impact of their CPD on their pupils' learning." 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:

“There is a growing consensus that continuously improving the quality of teaching is likely to have significantly more impact on educational recovery than headline grabbing 'add-ons' to the school day. The best contribution to supporting 'catch-up' that government could make is to value and invest in the school workforce.

“NAHT's School Improvement Commission recommended that government should introduce a funded entitlement to high quality professional development for all teachers and leaders. This report provides further evidence to show the significant returns that this would bring to pupils and teachers alike.”


Evidence review: The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students 

19th Feb 2020: A report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), commissioned by Wellcome, undertakes a detailed review of the evidence on the impact of teacher professional development. 

The study, "The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students" which includes analysis from Ambition Institute, examines 52 randomised controlled trials evaluating teacher development programmes, in order to establish their impact on pupil and teacher outcomes.  

Continuing professional development (CPD), which can include training courses, mentoring, seminars and peer review, can play a crucial role in improving teaching quality.

Key findings

The impact of professional development on pupils

  • High-quality CPD for teachers has a significant effect on pupils’ learning outcomes. CPD programmes have the potential to close the gap between beginner and more experienced teachers: the impact of CPD on pupil outcomes (effect size 0.09) compares to the impact of having a teacher with ten years’ experience rather than a new graduate (0.11). CPD also has similar attainment effects to those generated by large, structural reforms to the school system (0.1).   
  • Evidence suggests that quality CPD has a greater effect on pupil attainment than other interventions schools may consider, such as implementing performance-related pay for teachers or lengthening the school day.
  • Teacher CPD may be a cost-effective intervention for improving pupil outcomes: while there are other interventions with a larger impact on pupil attainment, such as one-to-one tutoring (0.28), these programmes are typically far more expensive.
  • CPD programmes generally produce positive responses from teachers, in contrast to other interventions. Large, structural changes to the school system, while as effective at improving pupil outcomes, incur substantial costs in terms of staff turnover and dissatisfaction.

The impact of professional development on teacher retention

  • Increasing the availability of high-quality CPD has been shown to improve retention problems, particularly for early-career teachers. While factors other than access to CPD tend to be behind teachers’ decisions to quit the profession, there is evidence supporting targeted CPD programmes for teachers in the early stages of their careers.
  • Induction training and mentoring programmes are particularly effective for improving retention rates early on. Quality CPD has the potential to alleviate acute retention problems for early-career teachers.

Improving access to professional development for teachers

  • Teacher turnover is a major impediment to the effectiveness of a CPD programme: those programmes that can offer flexibility to account for volatility in the teacher labour market are more likely to be successful. Additional support for new teachers joining the CPD programme half-way through the year, could be offered to mitigate this.
  • Professional development is more accessible for teachers and has a greater impact when it receives sustained support from school leaders. Those designing CPD programmes can also ensure continuity by adapting to any changes in school leadership.
  • CPD programmes that make allowances for workload and limited teacher time are also likely to be more effective. High teacher workload represents one of the greatest obstacles to accessing CPD; interventions are likely to see success if they are both attractive and strive to minimise the demands placed on teachers. 

Recommendations for future research

  • While research on high-quality professional development demonstrates a positive impact on pupil attainment, further studies are needed to establish the effect of CPD interventions on pupils’ long-term learning outcomes. Longer-term evaluations on CPD could be achieved in a light-touch way, for example by obtaining follow-up data for studies through the National Pupil Database.

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