Professional standards and accountability lecture


This chapter addresses questions related to professional standards and accountability in the UK compulsory education sector. The first section defines and explores the two concepts of professional standards and accountability, and sets them in wider contexts. The second part of the chapter makes a fuller exploration of statements of professional standards as they apply to teachers, using the current standards for teachers in England as an exemplar. This section notes the legal aspects of such standards, the variations which might be experienced in different parts of the UK, and in different types of educational settings, and the implications for teachers of the detail of the standards rubric.

The third main section looks at the reasons why standards exist, and the implications for educators and for learners of such standards being applied across the sector. The fourth and final element of the chapter returns to accountability, and assesses the extent to which being accountable can be a positive for educators, and for their continuing professional development. A scenario contextualises some of these issues; this can be found at the end of the chapter. Each section is accompanied by a reflection section, which encourages you to think creatively about the material contained in the chapter thus far.

Learning objectives for this chapter

By the end of this chapter, we would like you:

  • To be able to define professional standards and accountability, and to set them in wider quality assurance and monitoring frameworks
  • To appreciate the breadth and depth of the content of teacher professional standards, and the legal basis for them
  • To appreciate how a standards-informed pedagogy supports learners and offers opportunities to educators
  • To understand the value of teacher-led accountability in driving school performance and in increasing the autonomy of professional practitioners

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How can we define standards and accountability in a teaching context?

This section provides working definitions of standards and accountability as applied to education. The section also explores these terms in a range of ways which anticipate content both later in this chapter, and throughout the module.


Standards in education refers to levels of performance below which it is considered unsatisfactory to fall. Standards occur across the educational landscape, and may appear at many levels. At the level of the individual educator, for example, there are standards of performance, ability, attitude, and of behaviour. The next part of the chapter examines teachers' standards in more detail, using the current standards framework for teachers in England as an exemplar.

Standards may be applied to settings, and may occur in different contexts. Ofsted, the body which inspects schools in England, for example, has as its remit the assessment of schools in respect of the quality of their provision, so that minimum standards can be seen to be being upheld, so that exemplary performance may be noted and credit given, and that appropriate support be targeted at those settings whose educational offering falls below acceptable standards (UK Government, 2016).

Standards-based education defines what learners should be able to do at each level of their education; national curriculum documentation is based around the concept of standards-based education, and such standards may be gauged by summative year-end testing (including SAT tests), and by GCSE performance.

Throughout a teacher's career, the concept of standards will recur. The function of standards is to ensure and maintain quality, and so provide a better and more efficient educational experience and outcomes for learners. This is done through quality assurance processes being installed at multiple points through the school year and through a teacher's career. Aspects of such standards measures might be: second-marking and internal/external verification of coursework, external examinations being sat at GCSE, school internal and external (Ofsted) inspection processes, teaching inspections, and commitments to undertake at least a contractual minimum amount of continual professional development a year.


Accountability, at its most straightforward, is a relationship by which one party has an obligation to account for their performance or their actions to another. Such an obligation assumes that the party giving account has some responsibility for their actions or performance; accountability therefore invokes both responsibility and accounting, which might be assessed against standards which are expected to be met or exceeded (Gilbert, 2012). The notion of responsibility has two aspects in such a scenario; first that there is a measure of localised emotions bound up with meeting performance standards, for example in providing a quality education to a child, or to a group of children; and secondly, that responsibility implies that there is an element of agency involved. Freedom to act generates responsibility.

For Gilbert (2012), UK schools have more accountability than others anywhere else in the world; this is seen as a positive, as accountability - when balanced with schools' autonomy to act - generates better levels of pupil performance than centralised alternatives. Four key school accountability relationships have been identified (Gilbert, 2012). Schools (and individuals within them) should account to each of these, as they have responsibilities which refer to each four in turn:

  • To pupils: and to their parents/carers, as well as to the wider communities served by the setting. This may be seen as a moral accountability.
  • To colleagues: colleagues should be professionally accountable to each other; the school must be accountable to its staff in professional terms
  • To employers (including the government): employees, including teachers, are accountable in contractual terms to their employers (and to the government)
  • To the market: where there is at least an element of free market choice in where children may attend, there is market accountability at work, as schools should be appealing to the market, and have to deliver on their promises or face rebuttal or loss of market position (Gilbert, 2012).

Though we may conceive accountability at first in terms of upward accountability (teachers to line managers, school senior management to governors, schools to Ofsted, and so on) the accountability frameworks are much wider and less uni-directional if we consider a stakeholder-informed approach as above.

These four accountability relationships are managed in two principal ways. The first is through standards-based performance models, which assess measurable criteria such as examination results, attendance percentages, and performance in other productivity terms. Such an approach emphasises what has been done; being essentially summative, it is at its best in evidencing what has been done to date.

The second approach is to consider improvements-in-process, school evaluations, and internal debate with stakeholders; this can evidence more formative and qualitative measures of accountability, as the processes can be seen to be working, rather than there being a focus only on their data-driven outcomes.

For Gilbert (2012) neither is sufficient; instead, full accountability for schools, and for teaching and other colleagues within settings, is to derive information from both kinds of accountability measure. The best school leaders are proactive and take on board elements from both approaches. This might mean, for example, drawing on Ofsted inspection reports and self-assessments alike; being honest about the setting's positives and its areas for improvement; and using such information to drive teachers' continual professional development and to inform better classroom practice. Though the public accountability of Ofsted grades, league tables and the like are now firmly established in the national consciousness, accountability is more than reporting to a centralised system, and should be productive and engaging in the moment, than data-driven and essentially reductive.


In what ways do standards and accountability inform each other?

Are there disadvantages to having minimum acceptable levels of performance? Are there advantages?

Who are you accountable to? Who are they accountable to? What are your responsibilities? In what ways do responsibilities and accountabilities differ?

Is there a hierarchy of accountability, and if so, what is it for you? What has informed your thinking on this?

To what extent should a teacher be accountable for their learners' performance?

What standards are teachers held to by law/ in policy/ by individual institutions?

A revised framework for teachers' standards in England was introduced in 2012, with the intent that these standards would establish a clear set of expectations for teachers' professional practice and personal conduct. Parallel sets of standards apply to Scotland, Wales, and to Northern Ireland. The material in this section is drawn from the standards for England, though there is broad commonality between the different national standards. Details on where the standards documents for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and for Wales may be found is included in the references list, which is at the end of the chapter.

The current standards for England replaced predecessor guidelines, and were developed after an extensive independent review of the profession, which was undertaken in 2011. The review made two reports: the first reported on teachers' core and qualifying standards, and the second commented on the upper tiers of the standards framework, and into designations such as 'post-threshold', 'excellent teacher' and 'advanced skills teacher' statuses (HM Government 2011a; HM Government, 2011b). The reports, and the updated standards resultant from them, were structured around the core principles that the standards should be clear and straightforward, that they would support teacher training and inform performance management for those in post, and that the standards would also work to inform continuing professional development. In their approach to both professional practice and the personal conduct of teachers, the standards should enhance the public's confidence in teaching as a profession. The standards came into force from September 2012.

Together, the standards frame the minimum expected performance level of trainee teachers and those who have achieved qualifying teacher status (QTS). The current standards are open-ended and thus have no expiry date, though will be subject to periodic review and potential updating resultant from such review. The standards incorporate references to two pieces of UK legislation, Schedule 2 of The Education (School Teachers' Qualifications) (England) Regulations of 2003, and The Education (School Teachers' Appraisal) (England) Regulations of 2012, which respectively legally define the teaching qualifications relevant to teaching-related competence, and to appraisal processes (UK Parliament 2003; UK Parliament, 2012). The English standards apply to those trainees working towards QTS, to newly-qualified teachers (NQTs), and to teachers working in maintained schools covered by the 2012 appraisal regulations alluded to above. The standards also apply to those teachers with a further education QTLS (qualified teacher learning and skills) qualification who are now working in the compulsory education sector, as such qualifications have been an acceptable alternative to QTS since 2012.

The standards are mandatory for those teachers working in maintained schools and special schools. The standards' applicability to academy status and free schools may vary, depending on the precise nature of those schools; if working in such a setting, then it useful to check that school's policy framework to establish the referencing of the standards to the setting's own rules. For ease and transparency, though, many academy status schools will tend to adopt the standards, though may reword certain elements or add additional criteria for the setting's own bespoke requirements. Independent fee-paying schools are not mandated to abide by these standards, though some do; again, the setting's own policy framework will establish the performance and personal behaviour minimum standards to be upheld. The standards similarly do not apply to further education colleges, though individual institutions may model their internal teaching standards documentation on the national standards for clarity, convenience, and for ease of implementation.

The standards represent a minimum level of achievement, performance, and behaviour, and need contextualising to the individual teacher's setting and to their level of experience and career stage. For these reasons, the professional judgement of head teachers and other appraisers is considered central to the effective working of the standards. The standards are meant to be a spur for teachers to engage in processes of self-reflection and self-evaluation, and to inform continuous professional development (CPD), as the standards designate key areas for the individual practitioner to focus on.

The English standards have three elements: a preamble, a Part One which covers teaching, and a Part Two, which examines personal and professional conduct. This section now examines each of these elements in turn.


The preamble is brief and is worth quoting in full, as it contextualises the rest of the document, and offers a rationale for what follows. The text of the preamble is as follows (UK Government, 2013, p. 10):

"Teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. Teachers act with honesty and integrity; have strong subject knowledge, keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and are self-critical; forge positive professional relationships; and work with parents in the best interests of their pupils."

Part One: Teaching

Part One of the standards has eight elements which teachers must adhere to. Each of the eight is accompanied with additional guidance which adds texture and further direction to the eight, though are not to be read as directives in themselves. This section details the eight elements, and summarises the additional material.

1. A teacher must set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.

This means the establishment and maintenance of a learning environment which is both safe and stimulating, and which includes the fostering of an atmosphere of mutual respect. Goals set should be appropriate to students as individuals, and should represent adequate stretch and challenge to their abilities. Teachers should embody and uphold positive attitudes, values and behaviour as an exemplar to learners.

2. A teacher must promote progress and outcomes by pupils.

This criterion refers to a teacher's accountability for their pupils in respect of their progress, outcomes, and their attainment. Teachers should be aware of learners' abilities and pre-existing knowledge, and plan accordingly. Teachers must support learners in developing reflective skills so that they may develop awareness of their needs as learners. Teachers should develop their knowledge of how pupils learn, and how this has an impact in turn on their own teaching. Teachers should encourage responsibility and conscientiousness in their learners' approach to their school work.

3. A teacher much demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.

This criterion means that teachers' knowledge of their subject and curriculum areas needs to be secure, and relatable in such a way that it communicates to learners, and both encourages interest in the subject. Teachers should correct subject-related misperceptions. Scholarship should be valued, and curriculum and subject knowledge be kept updated. Teachers should ensure, whatever their teaching subject, that high standards of spoken and written English are supported. Where reading is being taught, teachers must hold and demonstrate a clear understanding of systematic synthetic phonics. If the teacher is delivering early mathematics, they should be able to use relevant mathematics teaching strategies.

4. Teachers must plan and teach well-structured lessons.

Lesson time needs to be used effectively. Intellectual curiosity and the value of reading should be supported. Homework and other relevant out-of-hours activities should be articulated to further pupils' knowledge and understanding. Lesson planning should be reflected upon, and teaching methods critiqued. Teachers should contribute to developing engaging session content and approaches to delivering the curriculum.

5. Teachers must adapt their teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of pupils. Teachers should use appropriate strategies to differentiate appropriately and meaningfully to best suit learners' needs. This means teachers should have a secure knowledge base regarding factors which might impact negatively on learning, and on how to combat such factors. Teachers should be able to articulate a knowledge of children's wider development, and should also modify their approach to best support learners at different stages of their physical, social, and intellectual development. Teachers should have a solid appreciation of all learners' needs, and have appropriate teaching strategies in place to best support learners with special educational needs; learners who are gifted and talented; learners who have disabilities; learners for whom English is an additional language, etc.

6. Teachers must make accurate and productive use of assessment.

Teachers should have a comprehensive knowledge of assessments relevant to their subjects and levels taught, including summative assessment requirements. Formative and summative modes of assessment should be used to develop learner progress. Teachers should use appropriate data to check progress being made, to set appropriate targets, and to inform lesson design. Feedback should be regular, communicated both in writing and orally, and teachers should encourage learners to be responsive to that feedback.

7. Teachers must manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning experience.

There should be clear rules and routines in place for moderating learner behaviour. Teachers should model school behavioural expectations both inside classrooms and in the wider school setting. Behavioural expectations should be high, and teachers should use an appropriate range of praise, rewards, and sanctions with both consistency and fairness. Classroom management needs to be effective, appropriate, and positive. Teachers should maintain good pupil relations, yet act with authority and decisiveness as relevant.

8. Teachers must fulfil wider professional responsibilities.

Teachers should contribute positively to wider school life, and to supporting the setting's ethos. Effective professional relationship with colleagues should be developed, so that experience and support can be shared. Teachers should use support staff effectively. Teachers should be responsible for their professional development, in consultation with colleagues' advice and feedback. Teachers should communicate effectively with learners' parents/carers in respect of learner achievement and well-being.

Part Two: Personal and professional conduct

Part two of the teaching standards for England notes that "[a] teacher is expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct" (HM Government, 2013, p. 14). Three main elements state the required conduct standards to be upheld throughout a teacher's career:

1. That teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour.

This relates to the treating of pupils with dignity, to the furtherance of mutual respect, and of observing appropriate boundaries to teachers' professional positions. Safeguarding is a priority, as is the observance of safeguarding-relevant regulations. Tolerance and respect for the rights of others is to be maintained. Fundamental British values should be upheld (including respect for democracy, for the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with faiths and beliefs other to one's own). Teachers' personal beliefs should not be given in ways which would take advantage of learners' vulnerability, or which might lead them to act illegally.

2. Teachers must have appropriate and professional for the setting within which they work, the policies and ethos of their school, and be exemplars in respect of punctuality and attendance.

3. Teachers must understand and comply with the statutory frameworks which outline their professional duties and responsibilities.


There is a lot of material in this section. Is there anything contained here which you were not expecting to have been included? If so, what is it, and why is it surprising to you?

Are there any elements not appearing which you expected to find? If so, what are they, and how would they impact on the wider standards framework if they were included?

These are minimum standards. Do you think that any of them represent a problem in your ability to meet them? If so, what are they, and what issues are involved presenting an obstacle? How might such issues be overcome?

If your setting falls outside the standards framework, then to what extent does its own policies map across to these national standards? What differences are there? Why do you think such differences may exist?

Why are standards implemented universally? How does this benefit learners?

Part of the relevance of a standard is that is has wide applicability; if it does not, then it cannot be said to be a standard in any meaningful way. It makes sense, therefore, for standards to be widely applied, and for there to be moves that bring the implementation of that standard towards universality in the given context of that standard.

With the different institutional arrangements existing between schools which continue to be local authority controlled, and their academy and free school comparators, some differences exist in some areas, but the standards which are applied nationally (such as the teachers' standards discussed in the previous section) nevertheless set the benchmark for those criteria, and will inform the wider sector. For standards which are more genuinely universal, such as Ofsted inspection and grading criteria, then the situation is even clearer, as all institutions need to be proactive in their addressing of the national standards required of educational institutions. The universal applicability of such standards has a levelling effect; all providers know the standards to be met, and have equitable access to information on how to best ensure that those standards may be achieved. 

Universalised standards help support learner and parental choice, as well as informing the communities which schools serve of that school's nature and performance in straightforward and easy-to-digest terms. Though single grades, such as those Ofsted give, are inevitably reductive, they nevertheless give stakeholders a snapshot of the school and the quality of education it offers, and provokes interest in the full Ofsted report, which gives greater detail and nuance to inspection findings. Standardised information of this sort, with pass rates in nationally standardised qualifications such as GCSEs as a further contributory factor, can help support parents/carers and potential pupils make decisions about which schools to entrust education to. In a marketized education environment where there is at least an element of free choice about where pupils may receive their education, then standardised criteria, and performance against such criteria, help support rational decision-making. 

Universal standards in respect to expectations of teachers also support the idea of parity of experience for learners across institutions. As the teacher standards apply to primary and secondary levels of education, and across county boundaries, there can be reasonable trust from pupils and parents/guardians that all schools have the same expectations of their staff regardless of what level they are at or in what locations, and that there are measures in place to deal proactively with underperforming teachers. This can be particularly supportive when learners are transitioning between schools as they pass through the educational system or if they relocate for family or other reasons.

Universal minimum standards also support teachers; potential career moves can be informed by performance against standards, for example. The teachers' standards can be used as personal inventory tool, which may inform not only reflective practice, but the development of CVs, job interview presentations, and in informing the nature and direction of future personal development. There is also a standards statement in place which addressed CPD directly (Department of Education, 2016). As with other standards statements, learners are put first among its concerns:

  • Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes
  • It should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise
  • It should include collaboration and expert challenge
  • It should be sustained over times
  • It must be prioritised by school leadership

Where variations in school constitution and funding exist, and where there is some choice in the educational market pace, the existence and maintenance of universalised standards provides evidence of educational oversight by government. Schools are perhaps freer now than ever before to make decisions about their approach to teaching, and about the specific ethos which informs that approach, but nationally-referable standards across areas such as teachers' ability and behaviour, inspection regimes, performance against attainment standards and the like offer both guidance and protection.

Such standards indicate to pupils and their communities that oversight is in operation, and that schools - and individual educators within them - have latitude to provide a differentiated experience, but that there are protections in place to ensure and to make public situations where such experiences deviate from acceptable standards. In this way, pupils benefit not only from those standards being set at points which best ensure a quality and progressive education for all, but that they inform processes to protect pupils from underperforming teachers and/or institutions.


What standards do you think are most relevant in ensuring that learners have the best education possible? Why have you made that determination?

To what extent do you think that standards might offer not only an acceptable minimum, but a benchmark to spur further development? Are standards positive or negative, that is, do they feel to you as though they offer empowerment and recognition, or do they instead threaten and cajole?

Imagine that you are new to an area and have school-age children. What factors would inform your decision to make a school your first choice? What priority do you put on standards-informed data, such as examination statistics, over practical issues such as geographical location? What information sources might you draw upon?

Why is accountability important for practice?

Accountability can be a positive for teaching practice in many ways, but each of them is informed by a single element; that greater accountability gives opportunities for teachers to have input and agency in shaping the ways in which they as individual practitioners, and as part of a wider collegiate setting, can enhance school ownership of accountability measures.

For Gilbert (2012, p. 10), school-led accountability not only feeds into and supports public accountability, but changes the nature of accountability in interesting and progressive ways:

  • Increased teacher and school ownership of accountability drives professionalism and pupil learning
  • School evaluation processes become dynamic and inclusive, ensuring that local community, parental, learner, and institutional voices are heard
  • Reinforces a culture where reflective practice informs the growth of the setting
  • Helps support embedding such practices across partner and neighbour schools
  • Helps refocusing external scrutiny onto processes which support school-led accountability

Gilbert (2012) argues for the professional ownership of school accountability by educators. It is too easy to see standards measures and the public accountability which they inform as external negative forces, judging and trying to control educational contexts which they cannot hope to appreciate. For Gilbert (2012), as it is teachers who are best placed to make a difference to children's lives through their rapport with their learners, their local knowledge, and their skills and craft as subject educators, then it is only sensible that such professionals make ownership of a self-improving system their priority.

In such ways, accountability can draw from teacher's knowledge of and relationship with the contexts of their professional practice, and accountability is made meaningful because it is informed by learner experience. Gilbert notes that good teachers "felt particularly accountable for the quality of their own teaching and they acknowledged that maintaining public confidence in standards of teaching was an important part of this" (Gilbert, 2012, p. 10). It is then the task of good school leadership to harness individuals' perceptions of accountability so that they inform the ethos and direction of the whole school, and that they then feed back into enhanced practice. Each of the standards and accountability measures eventually devolve back to good teaching; if teaching is good, then this is the bedrock upon which a good - if not outstanding, in Ofsted terms - school can be built and sustained.

Gilbert (2012) suggests a model of personal and professional accountability which draws its inspiration from another professional sector, and from those related to being a doctor registered with the General Medical Council. The accountability-related measures outlined in this draft model are as follows:

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Pupils and parents must be able to trust teachers to provide a good education, and so to justify that trust, a teacher should:

  • Have the education and care of learners be your priority
  • Protect and promote their education within and beyond the school gates
  • Provide a good standard of education by a) keeping knowledge and skills up to date, b) collaborate to ensure good practice is shared, c) work collegiately to serve the best interests of all learners
  • Treat learners as individuals, with respect and dignity
  • Recognise the child's right to learn, and your obligation to support that learning
  • Work with learners, and with parents/carers by a) establishing and maintaining good relations, b) listen to learners, c) support learners develop learning competencies, d) seek to involve parents/carers in their child's education
  • Be open, honest, and act with integrity: never discriminate, not abuse others' trust in you as a professional
  • Be responsible for your professional actions and decisions, and be able to justify them

Different settings may have varied approaches to accountability; often, a blend of formative and summative methods will be used. The suggestion in this section is that personal moral accountability informs good practice which in turn drives forward achievements and satisfaction, improving the whole school, but this can only have a cohesive effect if there is buy-in across the school to forward such agendas. Such buy-in might be detectable in several ways. Does the school invest in CPD for its staff, and what are the focuses of the continuing professional development? Are there positive expectations for teachers to be accountable for their learners? Is there evidence of a community of learning within the school, where colleagues have structured opportunities to support each other's teaching and personal development?

Some schools may have extended their ownership of accountability to neighbour settings, or else to others within the same academic trust, or otherwise within the same borough. This gives opportunities for more developed communities of learning, for extending collegiality, and for networking; there will doubtless be a school leadership part to play, but the impact and value of teachers being involved in such initiatives should not be underplayed. Such collaborative practice can have benefits with regard to:

  • The demystifying of schools, with openness, accountability and community relations being foregrounded
  • The centrality of learners to education being celebrated and made the focus of engagements
  • A shift from teachercentric to learner-centric investigations
  • The development of models of pedagogy where teachers are central, in the way that in other professional spheres (doctors, solicitors as examples) those practitioners are foregrounded

This requires buy-in from senior management, the head teacher, school governing bodies, and from other oversight mechanisms, such as may be found within larger academy trusts. However, with a teacher-led and learning-centric conceptualisation of accountability, rather than a top-down set of pressures which may be informed by the results of teaching rather than by its experience, teachers have opportunities to direct accountability in creative ways which will support the development of their own practice while enhancing the support an expertise they offer to their learners.


Look again at the teacher duties outlined by Goodwin. What are the parallels between this draft document and the teaching standards covered earlier? What are the differences? Why might such differences exist, and to what extent to the similarities suggest that the teaching standards may inform an accountability-led pedagogy?

Look at setting with which you are familiar. What evidence is there to suggest how accountability is defined within those schools? What might you change about the approaches if you could? If there is no external evidence of what accountability criteria might be operating, how does that make you feel?

What are your professional priorities as an educator? How might they impact - positively or negatively - on the ideas contained in this chapter?


Teaching and professional standards can be a contentious area for some, not least if accountability is taken to mean overbearing top-down scrutiny by fault-picking management. There is no doubt that for some in the past, that has been the experience. However, this chapter has worked to show that there are sound reasons for having professional standards in place, and that accountability is a necessary part of an open school system where there is an element of both institutional and governmental oversight at work, and parental choice between schools to be articulated.

Balances need to be struck between summative and formative aspects of accountability; this chapter has argued that if teachers are proactive, then then not only improve their own standards of teaching, but this impacts positively on learners, and supports whole-school efforts. This in turn drives quality and oversight agendas, and makes accountability both more straightforward and less burdensome. The key is to be engaged, forward-thinking, and to see standards and accountability measures as opportunities to excel.


Now we have completed this chapter, you should:

  • To be able to define professional standards and accountability, and to set them in wider quality assurance and monitoring frameworks
  • To appreciate the breadth and depth of the content of teacher professional standards, and the legal basis for them
  • To appreciate how a standards-informed pedagogy supports learners and offers opportunities to educators
  • To understand the value of teacher-led accountability in driving school performance and in increasing the autonomy of professional practitioners

Reference list

Department for Education (2016) Standard for teachers' professional development. Available at: (Accessed: 4 December 2016).

General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (2006) Professional Competences - general teaching council for Northern Ireland. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

General Teaching Council for Scotland (2016) Professional standards. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

Gilbert, C. (2012) Inspiring leaders to improve children's lives towards a self-improving system: The role of school accountability. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

HM Government (2011a) First report of the independent review into teachers standards: core and QTS standards. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

HM Government (2011b) Second report of the independent review into teachers' standards. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

HM Government (2013) Teachers' standards guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

HM Government (2016) The office for standards in education, children's services and skills (Ofsted) strategic plan 2014. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

The education (school teachers' qualifications) (England) regulations 2003, c. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

The education (school teachers' appraisal) (England) regulations 2012, c. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

Welsh Government (2011) Revised professional standards for education practitioners in Wales. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).



You have been approached by the member of the senior management team in your school to come up with some ideas for developmental activities for a future training event. They are particularly interested in enhancing teacher buy-in to such training, and so are looking for ways to support teachers' own ideas on accountability and collegiality. What sort of training activities might you suggest?


One approach is a return to first principles. Look again at the professional standards documentation in use in the setting, and have this document be the basis for a series of conversations and discussions.

Break down the standards into their constituent elements. In the standards for England, for example, there are eight core standards in Part One, and one in Part Two. These, in training, could be divided up into groups for group assessment, or might form individual activities.

For each of the standards statements (and the explanatory notes which accompany each) have your teams map what these mean in practice to them. Have each team note positives and negatives associated with each of the standards. If we take the third standard as an example: "A teacher much demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge", then what does that mean to the group, and how can it be evidenced, particularly with regard to professional updating of skills and subject and curriculum-related knowledge? What elements of good practice, and what areas for development can be identified? How secure does each person in that group feel that they are working to that standard? If they feel that they might not be, then what are the issues preventing such engagement? How might those issues be overcome?

By working through the standards, and by debating the issues arising from their scrutiny, there may be a range of outcomes. Some will be straightforward: individual training needs may be identified, and offers of colleague support may be forthcoming. More structural issues may present themselves, for example, if multiple colleagues report similar elements, then there is a generalised need across the institution to tackle that topic area. Conversely, points of excellence be be identified; can these be celebrated or publicised in some way? Is there scope to develop provision in this area to maximise the good work being done?

What about learner input? Is there scope for involving learners in some way with an inventory of this kind? Could the same task be put to management and to different teaching departments; what might the similarities and differences in perception tell us about the wider organisation?

Accountability means testing the standards, as the professional standards drive and inform the scope of attributes a teacher is meant to embody. If the argument is made that by using the standards as a tool to interrogate the school, then there may be benefits to be made. In part these will be diagnostic, in fault-finding and in providing rationales for focus training and development. In part, they will identify or further support excellence. Such a task will also serve as a reminder of the centrality of the standards to educative practice; the documentation is not something to be noted while training, and then passed over once one is in post, but should inform all aspects of the proactive teacher's professionalism. By making it an aspect of such training, this can be at least partially addressed. In coming from a teacher as an approach, it also underscores the importance of teacher-led accountability, rather than having accountability being defined in managerialist terms.

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