At the heart of the professional standards by which teachers must abide lies the need for the profession to conduct itself in the best way possible, specifically through classroom practice and the subject knowledge taught to children and young people. The standards, which came into effect in September 2012, are issued by law, and set out the minimum level of practice for trainees and teachers. Overall they offer a basic framework within which all teachers should be working, from initial teacher education onwards.
The standards fall into two parts plus a preamble. The preamble focuses on the values and behaviour that all teachers should abide by. Part one focuses on teaching, and what a teacher must do in order to be a competent professional, and part two explores professional and personal conduct and how a teacher must behave when in post. They are used to assess trainee teachers as they work towards Qualified Teacher Status and all who are completing their statutory induction period, as well as all other teachers who are subject to Teachers’ Appraisal regulations.
There’s no doubt that having a framework of standards can aid progression and development in the profession, and might usefully be explored alongside the Standard for teachers’ professional development, which was published last year. As Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the UCL Institute of Education, Dylan Wiliam, said: “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.” The very act of good quality professional learning, teaching and the constant application of professional judgement and reflection on our work in the classroom, means that we are, in the main at least, in a process of moving towards a better version of our professional selves.
Checking back on the teachers’ standards periodically can provide a valuable focus for intentional development. The expectations we have for the learners in our care, the progress we help them to make, our subject knowledge, the lessons we plan, the strengths and needs of our pupils, the assessments we do and the way in which we manage behaviour are always areas in which we can improve, whether in response to the latest research or through the development opportunities we undertake.
Keeping the balance
However, for David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust, there is a healthy balance that needs to be struck when considering teachers’ standards. While the expectations of teachers must necessarily be of the highest standard possible, there are clear obligations on employers, too. He explains: “More than any other public service, teachers must be role models and teach through our actions. It is up to every one of us to ‘hold the line’ and maintain minimum expectations of ourselves, of each other and of our pupils. Every time that one person lets something slip it makes it harder for the rest of us. But this goes two ways: as professionals we also need to hold the line of respect and professionalism shown to us.”
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The professional standards can be downloaded here.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.