Professional Standards need to reflect the priorities of today’s practitioners 

The Covid-19 pandemic has helped shape the teaching and learning agenda by fuelling acceleration in digital learning and working practices. These developments have been represented in the  Education and Training Foundation (ETF)’s newly launched 2022 Professional Standards Career Stages.  

This is the first update since the initial 2014 publication and can be found in the ETF’s new ‘Guide to Changes 2022’ document.  

The revised standards reflect the emergence of new priorities and challenges influencing work, education and wider society, in what has been a period of substantial political, cultural and economic change since 2014.  

The impact of the pandemic  

An example is the need to re-build and support industry following the Covid-19 pandemic’s extensive impact on jobs and livelihoods, along with the accompanying revolution in online working and learning practices…and their implications for future hybrid work and learning patterns. 

Dr Paul Tully, the ETF’s Professionalism Manager, who, along with myself, has been leading the review of the ETF’s Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers, said that additional issues surfacing in the pandemic’s wake such as learner vulnerability, confidence and wellbeing had also merited greater attention. Reflecting the wider attitudinal changes in the political and public discourse around the future of work and education, Tully added: “What has gripped the public’s imagination have been concerns around climate change and sustainability, and people’s future job prospects, and these have featured strongly in the updated Professional Standards, at the request of practitioners we spoke to”.  

“Education for sustainable development is a big issue, and it’s becoming a crisis area for nations across the world to respond to adequately,” Tully continued. “This has been building over the last three or four years for the Further Education (FE) and Training sector, and it was felt to be the right time to signal this shift in teaching and learning priorities. The Professional Standards are an appropriate place to do this.”  

Reviews of professional standards typically take place every four or five years in the lifecycle of professional bodies, Tully said, but added in the case of the 2022 revision, “It was probably overdue anyway, whether the pandemic came along or not. But certainly, the pandemic has influenced the issues that are currently preoccupying the sector and so we have reflected these views in the revised Standards.” 

A sector effort  

Practitioners and experts across the sector were consulted in carrying out the review. This included the Association of Colleges, the University College Union, Association of Employment and Learning Providers and OFQUAL. Feedback was clear – we should keep to the 20-statement format and stay with our three domains of practice: Professional Values and Attributes, Professional Knowledge and Understanding and Professional Skills. 

These 20 Professional Standards are designed to inspire teachers and trainers to work towards excellence in their teaching practice. Collectively, we believe they will enrich professional development conversations, foster stronger communities and help raise standards in teaching and learning.

The revised standards and their accompanying career stages has seven professional values, referring to the commitments that teachers and trainers are asked to make when they begin working in the FE and Training sector. 

“There are certain things that bind us together as educators – for example, we all want to do the very best for learners and give learners opportunities that they perhaps have never thought about. But we hope these opportunities will push them into a more enriching and potentially fulfilling life. It is our conviction that the revised Professional Standards will strengthen this goal” Tully elaborated. 

“The Standards also carry an important message about the sector itself, one that emphases the shared values of educators across the sector as much as it respects its differences. Everywhere in the sector, the desire to deliver effective teaching and learning remains an ongoing challenge, so these revisions are expected both to guide practitioners in what effective teaching can look like and also to support new conversations around teachers’ professional development.”  

Looking ahead 

Specific attention has been given to the revised Standards’ relationship to the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education’s new Occupational Standard for the revised ‘Learning & Skills’ Teacher Apprenticeship. This is designed for new entrants into the FE and Training Sector and will determine the outcomes and content of future initial teacher education courses, a change expected to be implemented by the Department for Education in September 2023. The revised Professional Standards will provide the next step for those who have gained their qualification, steering them towards professional development that aims to deepen their knowledge and skills. Until then, those starting teacher training courses in September 2022 will use the updated Professional Standards as their benchmarks for effective practice. Summarising the overall message of the updated Standards, the ETF stated: 

“The Standards aim to inspire excellence, ambition and professional learning, the qualities that drive success as a professional teacher in the FE and Training sector.”  

By Andrew Dowell, ETF’s Head for Professional Status & Standards 

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