Who is teaching the teachers?

  • In 2017, state primary schools in England spent an average of 0.66% of their budgets on staff development and training, equivalent to £685 per teacher. State secondary schools in England spent 0.40%, or £378 per teacher. Only 19% of primary schools and 6% of secondary schools spent at least 1% of their budgets on staff development.
  • Although staff development spending has risen in nominal terms since 2012, in 2017 it declined by 7.5% in primary schools and 12% in secondary schools. This reduction is broad based: a majority of state schools in England spent less on staff development in 2017 than in 2016.
  • Spending on learning resources, another important but somewhat discretionary line, has also been falling, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of school budgets. This suggests that recent changes in school spending patterns may reflect general funding pressures rather than specific reprioritisations.
  • Schools with higher proportions of deprived pupils tend to spend more on staff development. This may be at least partly because they receive higher levels of funding, though the fact that they also tend to have staff who are younger and less likely to be qualified could also be having an effect.
  • Because of the bias in staff development spending towards more deprived schools it is difficult to determine the effects of staff development in isolation from other factors. However, we find some evidence that higher levels of staff development spending correlate with lower staff absence, at least in secondary schools.
  • In addition to this blog post, we have collaborated with the Teacher Development Trust to make available an interactive map showing geographical variations in spending and a benchmarking tool that allows individual schools to compare their staff development spend with those of other schools locally and nationally.

Figure 1: Annual expenditure, staff and pupil numbers by school type
Notes: 'Primary' and 'secondary' categories include only mainstream state schools in England. All-through schools appear in both categories. 'Special' category includes all special state schools and alternative provision in England. Due to the relatively small number of special schools and high rates of data suppression in 2012-2014, data for those schools during that period should be treated with particular caution. For example, the apparent dip in special school per-pupil spending in 2013 may be a statistical artefact.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Proportions of schools showing increased/decreased staff development spending compared to the year before
Sample sizes: Primary schools – 16,017-16,664. Secondary schools – 2,285-3,244.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Distribution of staff development spend as a proportion of total school spend
Sample sizes: Primary schools – 16,427-16,787. Secondary schools – 2,765-3,324.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: School characteristics by deprivation quintile (2012-2017)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 5: School characteristics by level of staff development spend (2012-2017)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
  1. For the DfE's own analysis of teacher recruitment and retention, see here. SchoolDash also continues to track secondary-school teacher recruitment activity in our Jobs section.
  2. See our recent analysis of rising secondary school recruitment activity.
  3. The Teacher Development Trust is a charity that promotes continuing professional development of teachers. SchoolDash also believes that this is an important area but takes no formal position on how much there should be or how it should be conducted. Our job here is to crunch the numbers as objectively and usefully as possible in order to allow you to make up your own mind.
  4. In the school financial data released by the DfE this is usually referred to as 'Staff development and training' or something similar.
  5. School financial data is published separately for local authority-maintained schools and academies (which receive funding direct from central government). The analysis presented here combines both data sets, allowing for various differences in data formats. It also includes 'part returns' (ie, financials for recently established schools than cover less than a full academic year). For academies that are members of a multi-academy trust, we have included any central expenditure (which usually amounts to only a few percent of the total) and allocated this equally to each school in the trust. Some financial figures are suppressed by the DfE, especially where they might compromise privacy (eg, salary costs relating to a single member of staff). Moreover, this policy seems to have varied over time such that data suppression in some years is much more aggressive than in others. (In particular, a very large proportion of primary school teacher costs were suppressed in 2014.) In order to enable reasonable year-on-year comparisons, we have therefore estimated some suppressed values by interpolating from adjacent years where possible. Tests on data where we have values for all years suggests that this is a reasonably accurate approach: 65-70% of values are within ±30% of the true value, and the mean error for each year is very close to 0%. In any case, this approach is almost certainly much more accurate than simply assuming zero values for suppressed data. Note that even after applying this method some suppressed values remain. As a result, total levels of spend across all schools are likely to be underestimates, but we believe any discrepancies to be small and they should not vary much by year. Finally, some DfE data sources give numbers rounded to the nearest £1,000 while others provide more accurate figures. This should make little difference for aggregate analyses, but it may sometimes be significant when looking at individual schools.

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