Headlines: January 27th, 2004

Teachers who take part in postgraduate courses help bring about significant improvements in their schools, including in the standards of pupils’ work, according to a new report from Ofsted. It found that all but a small minority of teachers who followed courses leading to recognised qualifications were proving to be real assets to their schools and to the wider teaching profession.The Government’s strategy for supporting teachers’ professional development includes making money available to higher education institutions, local education authorities and professional associations to enable them to supply postgraduate in-service training courses. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools David Bell said the new report’s findings highlighted how important this form of training was to both the professionalism of teachers and the improvement of schools.

He said it was the focus of the courses on practical action in the teachers’ own schools that made them a powerful lever for school improvement. The report explores the extent to which courses make a difference to the overall achievement of schools, how well the courses had been designed to support sustainable school improvement and the factors that enhance or reduce the impact of the training on improvement.

The inspectors found that teachers who take part in postgraduate courses helped to bring about significant overall improvements in their schools including in the standards of work produced by pupils, teaching, pupil assessment and target-setting as well as in curriculum planning, the implementation of national strategies and in systems for review and self evaluation.

They report that courses that are aimed at providing teachers with wider subject knowledge result in more creative and enthusiastic teaching, while courses targeted at the better understanding of the national literacy and numeracy strategies have also proved popular and effective. The inspectors noted that LEA intranet sites, regional seminars and joint publications between participants, advisers and their tutors were effective ways of spreading the experiences of individual teachers to a wider audience. The report says the best LEAs take an active interest and help to organise outreach sessions enabling teachers to share their knowledge.

The report found, though, that a minority of participants failed to make good use of their training. Important reasons for this included insufficient study time to complete assignments and research projects, lack of support from heads and senior managers in implementing change, the reluctance of colleagues to change established practices and lack of liaison between INSET providers, LEAs, schools and course participants, which resulted in training that was not well matched to teachers’ needs.