Paul Kessell-Holland - The Professional Standards

One year on: One of the first jobs for the Education and Training Foundation was to update the Professional Standards for our sector. This work led, just over a year ago, to the new standards that many of us are already so familiar with, writes Paul Kessell-Holland.

The most popular download from the Education and Training Foundation site, they are also our most visited webpage and regularly one of the most asked about topics at conferences and presentations. 

This is hardly surprising, as the entire point of standards of this kind is that they are there for everyone, they are pan sector, reach teaching staff at all stages of their career and are intended to help teaching staff develop and grow as professionals across their career. This strength is also one of the challenges for the standards however. For the first time, our sector has standards that are aspirational, developmental and speak to a genuine Dual Professional role that has been ignored too much in the past. There are expectations of maintaining your vocational skill as well as your wider teaching skills, expectations of supporting your learners, working from a research evidence base in your teaching and much more. This wide ranging, far reaching aspiration has led some to ask; ‘How can we possibly measure our success against these standards?’; ‘Who will use them to assess or inspect me?’; and ‘How can I ensure I really meet the standards to a level I feel is commensurate with my professional aspirations?’. 

These are all good questions, and it is important they are not avoided but addressed head on. The Foundation commissioned several ‘how to’ guides from across the sector several months ago that cover a range of topics on the standards – good ways to self assess, guidance for ITE providers (who are already working in an Ofsted environment that measures engagement with these standards), advice for HR managers to name a few. We will be placing all of this work on the excellence gateway soon, but alongside this we are developing self assessment tools to help teachers that will go live on the Foundation and Society for Education and Training websites in the coming months. To have your questions answered directly by experts in the field please join our Professional Standards webinar.

The biggest thing for all teachers to remember is that our career is a journey. A developmental experience that gives us all the chance to reflect on where we have got to, what is next, and how we can do better for our learners, and just as importantly how to do better for ourselves. What you felt was acceptable in your own practice even last year may no longer be something you would stand by with pride, and standards that measure you against one central list of competencies can never hope to capture the richness and complexity that is being a teacher in our sector, nor can it bottle the experience and expertise of our long standing career teachers, for whom basic tick box standards are way below what they would hope to be achieving in their day to day teaching. 

We are working now to develop comprehensive guidance for all levels in the sector. Teaching practitioners, HR staff, senior leaders and educational bodies all need a framework on which they can make some kind of judgements, and we intend over the coming months to develop evidence and activity suggestions for all the standards that give you some idea of what you might be able to do to show your commitment to developing your teaching practice across all three of the domains of the standards –Professional Values and Attributes, Professional Knowledge and Understanding and Professional Skills. This will take time and we won’t let this work be hurried because it could become a weight around teachers’ necks, rather than the supportive extra guidance we hope you would agree will be helpful for some people. That said, in the meantime I hope you would agree, teacher to teacher, that there is nothing in these twenty simple statements that you would not aspire to. There is quite a lot in there, but then again, last time I looked, being a teacher was fairly complex as well, and I think getting this down to a list of twenty things we can all agree on is quite impressive. One year on it seems a good time to celebrate the impact they can have for all of us, as well as looking forward to see what more we could do. Just like the teachers they are for, these standards don’t rest on their laurels, but instead will be enhancing their practice over the coming months and years. 

Paul Kessell-Holland, The Education and Training Foundation

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