Ambition Institute comments on Labour education announcements


At this point in the electoral cycle, we're anticipating announcements from political parties about where they want to focus in education. Some proposals will be eye-catching, some will build on good things already in train, some are new solutions to knotty challenges, and some signal a clear and sometimes different direction of travel. From our perspective, the key is that policy proposals are based on evidence and respect for the commitment and hard work of people working with children day in and day out.

Earlier this week, the shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson talked about the importance of the status of the teaching profession and improving access to training and development for teachers. We are really supportive of proposals to help develop the expertise of the education workforce and think this is a key foundation for the future.

Ensuring our schools and nurseries are full of expert educators must be a cornerstone of any drive to boost social mobility.

Professional development is a critical lever that can help us all tackle some of the sector's most pressing challenges. High quality teaching is the single best method for improving children's education, and the most effective teachers help their pupils to learn twice as much in a year as less effective teachers. Improving educational outcomes is vital to boosting lifelong earnings, so ensuring our schools and nurseries are full of expert educators must be a cornerstone of any drive to boost social mobility.

Well-conceived and delivered teacher development can transform practice and have as much impact as a decade of classroom experience. Studies show that confidence and job satisfaction - strongly linked to high quality training - matter and are critical considerations in whether to remain in the profession. Frequently, this is a point which is overlooked, and it is imperative that it sits at the heart of any new policy. It is encouraging to see Labour recognise this. However, to ensure that every teacher can participate in high quality training programmes, it will be important to free up teachers' time so they can make the most of these opportunities.

By prioritising the expertise of our education workforce, we can follow in the footsteps of the world's best education systems. Singapore, which has regularly topped the international tables for pupil performance since it entered the OECD's PISA tests in 2009, invests heavily in its teachers, who are entitled to 100 hours of quality controlled professional development per year.

By prioritising the expertise of our education workforce, we can follow in the footsteps of the world's best education systems.

Labour has promised to pay a retention bonus of £2,400 to all teachers who complete the Early Career Framework – a rigorous, scientifically grounded professional development programme in which all teachers now participate in their first two years in the classroom. Evidence suggests that this could boost the retention of new teachers in the short term. Evaluation of a pilot programme in which early career maths and physics teachers received an 8% retention bonus found that it improved retention rates by 23%.

Again, this is encouraging, and a good next step here would be to consider extending the career points at which retention payments are made, beyond those in their first two years of teaching. There are also important things to learn from other professions and sectors about recruitment, retention and reward. Proposals which address these issues will help ensure that teachers are afforded the respect they deserve as members of a vital and skilled profession.

In a major speech this morning, the Leader of the Opposition Kier Starmer has set out a wide-ranging suite of proposals to expand opportunity, and we are supportive of a strong focus on the crucial early years of children's lives, and those with special educational needs and disability. We're encouraged to see Labour putting a strong emphasis on the importance of a skilled and expert education workforce, and firmly believe that valuing and supporting those who work to give children the best opportunities is absolutely crucial for our success as a country.

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