Improved retention rates will offset cost of 35-hour CPD target

The additional cost of embedding 35 hours of high-quality CPD a year for all teachers would most likely be offset by improved retention rates, researchers have concluded.

A study from Pro Bono Economics (PBE, 2022) and commissioned by charity the PTI estimates that as many as 12,000 teachers a year could be prevented from quitting.

What is more, investing in high-quality CPD would be more cost-effective than trying to recruit and train the additional teachers needed to replace those who leave.

It costs around £25,000 to train a new teacher whereas an additional day of high-quality CPD costs up to £450, the report estimates.

It is not the first time the 12,000 figure has been mooted. Last year, a cost-benefits analysis commissioned by Wellcome found that high-quality CPD for mainstream teachers has an average effect on pupils’ attainment of one month of extra learning across the year in which the CPD is undertaken (Van den Brande & Zuccollo, 2021). It also tentatively suggested that 12,000 teachers a year could be retained under this approach.

Wellcome has long campaigning for a 35-hour entitlement for CPD that meets individual teacher need and is at least 50 per cent subject-specific. It has termed this the Wellcome CPD Challenge (Leonardi et al, 2020). This CPD must also meet quality criteria as set out in the Department for Education’s 2016 Standard for teachers’ professional development.

England is behind international averages when it comes to CPD. Across the OECD nations, teachers receive an average of 62 hours a year of CPD. But in England secondary teachers get just 43 hours, while primary colleagues get 55. How many of these hours would qualify as “high-quality” CPD is unclear.

A key message in the new research is that ministers should focus more on high-quality CPD in order to ease the pressure on teacher recruitment targets.

Teacher recruitment continues to face an uphill struggle, especially at secondary level, as the government continues to miss its targets.

While 14,662 teacher trainees were recruited in the primary phase against a target of 10,800 in 2021/22, secondary recruitment is way behind, with 16,571 trainees signed up against a target of 20,230.

The new research points out that as well as needing to replace the 15,000 to 20,000 teachers that leave the profession each year, 11,000 additional teachers are needed in the secondary sector over the next three years to deal with an extra 160,000 pupils who will enter state funded secondary schools.

In 2018/19, the rate of teachers leaving the state sector was 9.9 per cent (secondary) and 9.3 per cent (primary) (Worth, 2020).

The PBE report – entitled Learning to save – states: “While the definition of high-quality CPD is still subject to debate, there seems little doubt that both the quantity and quality of CPD provision in England could be significantly improved.”

It adds: “It costs the government around £24,900 to train a new teacher. Given the cost of an additional day of high-quality CPD is around £150-£450, it would save government money if the additional day of CPD improved retention rates by just 0.6-1.8 percentage points.

“The incremental cost of providing 35 hours of high-quality CPD would be offset provided that retention rates are improved by just two percentage points.”

The new Early Careers Framework (ECF) offers early career teachers a two-year induction with a guarantee of structured training and support. This has come alongside the announcement of funding for 150,000 National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) for teachers in state schools.

The PBE report says that these are “promising signs that the government is working hard to improve the provision of CPD for teachers”.

However, it adds: “More investment could pay dividends for the government both now and in the future. Building on recent progress to meet Wellcome’s call for 35 hours of high-quality CPD for every teacher every year is not only likely to help address the impending teacher supply crunch, but is likely to save the government money, improve the quality of teaching provided in our schools, and improve outcomes for children in the longer term.”

Such a policy would cost as much as £4bn, but the report suggests that due to other long-term benefits including increased lifetime earnings of the average student (by around £2,300), this investment would be easily offset over a 10-year period because of the benefit to the economy.

Chris Pope, co-director of the PTI, said: “We know from the teachers we work with that good professional development not only inspires them to become more inspiring teachers, but also encourages them to remain in the profession despite all the challenges they face.

“The report provides financial justification for our work, and a strong argument that schools and government should be investing more in teachers’ professional development.”

Jon Franklin, chief economist at PBE, added: “The education sector in England is facing a teacher supply crisis that has not been helped by the added pressures exerted on teachers and pupils by the pandemic.

Consistent annual shortfalls in secondary school teacher recruitment over the last decade mean the gaps are too large for the sector to recruit its way out of this problem.

“There needs to be greater focus on retaining the thousands of teachers that leave the profession each year. CPD is a key tool for helping to keep teachers in the classroom. Our analysis suggests that increasing the provision of CPD for teachers would prove cost-effective for the government, with the benefits from retaining teachers outweighing costs within two to three years.”

Pro Bono Economics is a charity that uses economics to support the work of the social sector. The PTI – formerly the Prince’s Teaching Institute – provides subject-based CPD for primary and secondary teachers.

  • Leonardi et al: Progress towards the Wellcome CPD Challenge, The Wellcome Trust, February 2020:
  • Pro Bono Economics: Learning to save: Teacher CPD as a cost-effective approach to improving retention, January 2022:
  • Van den Brande & Zuccollo: The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students: A cost-benefit analysis, EPI, April 2021:
  • Worth: Teacher Labour Market in England: Annual Report 2020, NFER, June 2020: