15th July 2021

The cost of high-quality professional development for teachers in England

A new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), commissioned by Wellcome, finds that giving teachers a formal entitlement to high-quality training and development would only cost the government an extra £210m in funding a year.

When added to existing school spending on training and development for teachers, the total cost would represent less than 1% of the government’s total budget for schools in England.  

A policy of providing teachers with an entitlement to 35 hours of high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) a year has been shown to bring significant returns in the way of pupil attainment and earnings, and may tackle retention problems in the teaching profession.

But despite these benefits, there is currently no formal entitlement to high quality training offered by the government. Teachers in England currently participate in less CPD than their international counterparts, while the quality of CPD programmes on offer often fails to meet the government’s own standards.

The study shows that schools typically spend an average of around £3,000 a year per teacher on CPD, which is already much of the cost of an improved, high quality entitlement to teacher CPD.  

Most schools are found to be spending just under 3% of their school budget on CPD, which is higher than previous estimates.

In order to meet the cost of boosting their current offer with a full entitlement to quality CPD for all teachers, the research shows that schools would have to be able to maintain their current spending levels and commit around an extra £500 per teacher per year on average, taking the spending up to around £3,500.

As a proportion of schools’ average spending, this would also represent an increase in their individual budgets of less than 1%.

With much of the cost already committed by schools, the findings suggest that policymakers should focus their efforts on driving up the quality of existing CPD, so that it is of a far higher standard.

The full report can be accessed here.


Key findings


What are the benefits of giving teachers an entitlement to high-quality professional development?

  • EPI research has shown that introducing a formal entitlement for teachers in England to 35 hours of high quality CPD a year would boost pupil attainment by an extra two-thirds of a GCSE grade – which in turn translates to extra lifetime earnings of over £6,000 per pupil.
  • In the short term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to an estimated 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year.
  • Despite these benefits, secondary school teachers in England spend fewer hours a year on CPD compared to other OECD nations, while it is also likely that the majority of CPD currently being provided in England does not meet the criteria for high-quality CPD.


How much do schools currently spend on professional development for teachers?

  • The current cost of teacher professional development differs significantly among schools. It also encompasses not just the direct spending on the CPD training itself, but also the costs to staff time from their participation.
  • Taking this into account, on average, schools in England spend around £3,000 per teacher per year on professional development.
  • The average spending on CPD per teacher is slightly higher for academies than for local authority-maintained schools, with academies spending around £3,050 per teacher per year, compared to around £2,850 for local authority-maintained schools.
  • The vast majority of schools (around 80%) spend just under 3% of their total school budget on teacher CPD each year, which is higher than previous estimates.


How much more is needed to fund a formal entitlement to CPD for all teachers?

The cost of a CPD entitlement policy to schools:

  • In order to fund a policy entitling all teachers to 35 hours of high-quality CPD a year, schools would need to be adequately funded in order to maintain current spending levels, and then spend around an extra £500 per teacher per year more, taking total spending to around £3,500 per teacher per year.
  • This is not significantly more than schools already spend on CPD – the difference of an extra £500 on average represents a 17% increase in CPD spending for schools.
  • As a proportion of schools’ own budgets, this would only be an increase of less than 1%.
  • The present level of spending on CPD means that 83% of schools would need to increase their expenditure to cover the cost of the entitlement.
  • With significant variation on spending on CPD among schools, some schools will need to increase spending by more much than others. Smaller schools are likely to face higher costs than larger schools.

The cost of a CPD entitlement policy to the government:

  • In order to fund the increased spending required by schools, the government would need to spend an extra £210m a year – which taken together with existing spending on CPD, is less than 1% of its total budget for schools in England.
  • This relatively small difference indicates that the current level of spending on CPD may be nearly sufficient to fund a policy of a CPD entitlement for teachers.
  • If the entitlement policy were to be implemented, policymakers should therefore focus their attention not only on increasing CPD spending to fund the entitlement, but also on improving the quality of CPD currently provided.



This report is funded by Wellcome.

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