Part 1: Introduction

Ministry of Education: Supporting professional development for teachers.

In this Part we describe:

What is professional development and why is it important?

Professional development covers a wide range of activities, including training courses, conferences, tertiary study, observed practice, and study groups. This means that not all professional development takes place in a course. Reading relevant literature, observing colleagues in practice, and opportunities to meet with peers are all forms of professional development.

Successful professional development initiatives support effective teaching, which is pivotal to improving student outcomes.1

The scope of our audit

We carried out a performance audit of the Ministry of Education's roles in relation to the professional development of teachers. We did not evaluate the effectiveness of professional development initiatives (for the teachers or for their students) but we did look at how the Ministry evaluated their effectiveness.

Our audit covered the professional development that teachers2 do after they have graduated from a teacher education programme. We looked at professional development for teachers in primary and secondary state and state-integrated schools.

We did not examine professional development:

  • for school support staff (for example, school office staff and in-classroom support staff );
  • in the early childhood and tertiary education sectors;
  • in special education (because the Ministry has different arrangements for special education); or
  • funded by teachers directly or through schools' locally raised funding.

Schools have a lot of responsibility for monitoring the quality of teaching, identifying professional development needs, and supporting and arranging access to appropriate professional development for teachers where necessary. We have not examined these practices within schools because our audit was of the Ministry, not schools.

How we conducted our audit

We assessed the Ministry's roles in relation to the professional development of teachers against a set of expectations. We state those expectations at the beginning of Parts 3, 4, and 5.

To conduct our audit, we reviewed a sample of Ministry files and other documentation, including contracts between professional development providers and the Ministry.

The contract files that we reviewed included a mixture of contestable and non-contestable contracts (the initiatives covered by the contracts we reviewed are listed in Appendix 1). The files included large and small contracts, public and private providers, and different types of professional development initiatives for teachers. The files also covered subject-specific contracts and contracts for enhancing general teaching practice. From the information we had available, we estimated the combined annual value of the contracts we reviewed was about $30 million.

We also interviewed a wide range of stakeholders, including:

  • staff within the Ministry's national, regional, and local offices;
  • School Support Services3 providers;
  • other holders of professional development contracts with the Ministry;
  • teacher unions;
  • principals' groups;
  • the Education Review Office (ERO);4
  • the New Zealand School Trustees' Association; and
  • an education expert.

At the time of our audit, the Minister of Education had identified that professional development was an area of interest to the Government. ERO was doing work on professional development decision-making within schools and was looking at professional development as part of its school reviews in 2008. Our audit complements ERO's work in that our focus is on the Ministry's professional development activities.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we discuss the main stakeholders involved in funding, regulating, monitoring, or providing professional development for teachers, and describe their responsibilities. We also discuss our estimate of the Ministry's spending on professional development for teachers.

In Part 3, we discuss our findings about:

  • the Ministry's objectives for professional development for teachers;
  • the evidence the Ministry has about the processes and practices that have been shown to improve teaching and students' outcomes; and
  • the support provided by the Ministry to help the education sector to deliver professional development services (the sector's capability) and enable teachers and schools to participate in the services (teachers' and schools' capacity).

In Part 4, we review the Ministry's risk management and contract management practices, and how it evaluates the effectiveness of professional development initiatives.

In Part 5, we review the Ministry's funding strategy for professional development and how decisions are made about what, where, and how professional development services for teachers are available. We also review the extent of the Ministry's value-for-money considerations when administering professional development contracts and the Ministry's use of efficiency-related performance measures in those contracts.

Parts 3 to 5 contain recommendations for the Ministry. The Ministry has responded constructively to our recommendations and has committed to preparing a work plan to address them. At the time of our audit, the Ministry had not finalised this plan but, in its response to the draft of this report, it identified some current and proposed work relating to our recommendations. We note this current and proposed work in this report.

1: By student outcomes, we mean students' learning resulting from the education that students receive.

2: Unless otherwise stated, in this report the word "teacher" includes teaching staff who are also in senior leadership or responsibility roles (for example, deputy principals or heads of departments) and school principals.

3: School Support Services are professional development services funded by the Ministry and provided by tertiary education providers. They form the core of professional development funded by the Ministry for schools and teachers.

4: The Education Review Office is a government department whose purpose is to evaluate and report publicly on the education and care of students in schools and early childhood services.

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