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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Continuing professional development for teachers working in early childhood and school education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.3Continuing professional development for teachers working in early childhood and school education

Last update: 30 March 2024

Organisational aspects

Continuing education and specialised training are two ways that contribute to teachers’ continuing professional development.

Continuing education is both an entitlement and a duty. It aims to improve and update teachers’ professional knowledge and competences, professional mobility and career advancement.

Specialised training is defined as additional training that allows teachers to gain qualifications in other educational duties that assist schools to work efficiently and the education system to develop.

Continuing education

There are various types of continuing education: training courses, training workshops, study circles, short courses or, at the request of the Continuing Education Scientific-Pedagogical Council, internships and projects.

Continuing education is organised by different training bodies:

  • higher education institutions.
  • municipal and intermunicipal-based school associations training centres, which consist of schools and kindergartens.
  • not-for-profit professional or scientific association training centres.
  • Ministry of Education central services, in areas considered important for developing the educational system and
  • other institutions whose intervention is deemed useful in this domain, and which are public, private or cooperative non-profit entities accredited for this purpose.

The accreditation of training bodies, trainers and training courses is the responsibility of the Continuing Education Scientific-Pedagogical Council (CCPFC). For the purposes of career development and progress, teachers must attend and pass continuing education or specialised training courses for 25 hours at scale 5 and 50 hours at the remaining scales.

For the above-mentioned purposes, valid training is that which is accredited by the CCPFC, recognised and certified by the training bodies (short courses) and undertaken within the framework of the European programmes, provided it is accredited by the CCPFC.

The School Association Training Centres (CFAE) should draw up an annual or multiannual training plan, considering the priorities indicated by the associated schools. The continuing education courses that are part of the Centres’ training plans are submitted for accreditation by the Continuing Education Scientific-Pedagogical Council. The CFAE may establish collaboration protocols with public, private and cooperative bodies to provide training in priority areas.

A few nationwide continuing education programmes have been designed in agreement with national training priorities. The National Programmes of Continuing Education are particularly relevant to teaching mathematics, Portuguese and experimental science education. These were established between 2005 and 2007 to respond to ongoing systemic problems. More recently, as part of the nationwide Technological Education Plan (Plano Tecnológico de Educação - PTE), the 2010 Training Programme PTE was launched by means of the CFAE regional training plans. In the first year of its implementation (2010), 2 217 classes were created. These were organised by the recruitment group and involved approximately one third of all teachers. A total of 44 386 teachers have successfully completed a 15-hour training programme. From 2011 onwards, due to a lack of funding, the national PTE training programme was suspended. 

In its construction of a 21st-century curriculum, the Ministry of Education has adopted a number of measures that point towards quality learning that is an effective response to all students’ needs. Such measures focus on the publication of Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, which defines the organisational principles for basic and upper secondary education curricula, as well as Decree-Law No 54/2018, 6 July, which establishes the legal framework for inclusive education. 

The aim is to support schools’ autonomous and flexible management of the curriculum as a tool that can developed locally. This involves dialogue with students, families and the community, so that all students acquire the competences stipulated in the Exit Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Schooling.

As part of this wide-ranging programme, it is also worth mentioning the launch of the MAIA Project (monitoring, follow-up and research in pedagogical assessment) in 2019. This is a multidimensional project that discusses a range of issues, be they curricular, pedagogical, theoretical or practical issues of teaching, learning and assessment. The same goes for issues associated with ongoing training and teachers’ professional development, in an integrated manner.

The project involves aspects that are fundamental for reflecting on the structure and content of pupils’ assessment mechanisms (theory and basis), as well as presenting a strong monitoring and research element.   

The MAIA Project is a concerted effort at national level to develop a process that, in collaboration with the School Association Training Centres, the heads of school clusters/non-clustered schools and teachers, creates the conditions for pedagogical assessment to be integrated into curriculum development processes, as well as linked to teaching and learning.

School leadership training is a key area where training initiatives have followed the Ministry of Education’s strategy. Overseen by the Ministry, the Directorate General for School Administration (Direção-Geral da Administração Escolar - DGAE) has formed different partnerships and designed training programmes that target mainly top-level school leadership. It is hoped that their impact is reflected throughout all school leadership and will improve students' quality of learning. To this end, a partnership with Microsoft was established in 2010 to implement the “Innovative Leaders” training programme, which involved 350 head teachers from schools/school clusters and thousands of users. The aim of the programme is to design and implement improvement plans favouring the educational communities covered by the programme.

Since 2021, the Directorate-General for School Administration has organised training on performance evaluation for Directors of School Clusters and Non-Clustered Schools, as well as other school departments with responsibilities in this area.

Between 2016 and 2017, the DGAE focussed on training directors of training centres, as well as staff working in the training and monitoring sections.

This plan aimed to empower these educational agents to meet the challenges of the new continuing education legal framework, as published by Decree-Law No 22/2014, 11 February, in relation to the implementation of a new training paradigm to improve the quality of teacher performance and focussed on the training needs identified by schools.

Established in 2012, the teacher performance assessment system made changes to previous models, such as the simplification of procedures, longer assessment cycles and the introduction of an external aspect focussed on classroom observation. As a result of legislation, and to strengthen and consolidate the specific skills of teachers involved in classroom observation, the DGAE implemented training programmes for the external assessors who evaluated teachers’ scientific and pedagogical performance between 2013 and 2016. This nationwide training, provided by the CFAE, involved around 5 000 external teacher evaluators in its four editions. A new training programme for external assessors is planned for 2024.

For many years, the Pestalozzi Programme (the Council of Europe's training programme for education professionals that promotes respect for and defence of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in educational practices) provided continuing education for education professionals, so that they could act as cascaders, disseminating the experience and results of this training in their professional environment. The Pestalozzi Programme was cancelled in this format by the Council of Europe in late 2017, however, the resources accumulated over the years (materials, tools, other publications, etc.) remain available to education professionals in the Member-States.

The legal framework for teachers’ continuing education was established with new legislation (Decree-Law No 22/2014, 11 February), which is now geared towards improving the quality of teacher. This is done by focussing the training system on priorities identified by the school and teachers’ professional development.

Teachers' personal and professional well-being and organisational happiness have become major concerns in Europe and worldwide, as well as a key area of educational research, when it became known that the positive relationship that this establishes between teachers’ practices and students’ academic success. To this end, since 2020, the DGAE has been promoting the course Tools for building a Happy School: Teachers, Leadership and Educational Organisations, designed primarily for school heads and middle managers in Portuguese public schools. This course is accredited by the Scientific-Pedagogical Council of Continuing Professional Training.

At each School Association Training Centre, there is a focus on creating groups of internal trainers that boost the level of qualifications of existing education professional in schools and allow quality training to be given in the areas identified as priorities by the schools themselves. The quality of training is guaranteed via a variety of regulation mechanisms, via monitoring by the DGAE and external evaluation, which is the responsibility of the Inspectorate-General of Education (Inspeção Geral da Educação - IGE). This new model of continuing education involves short training courses (recognised and certified by training bodies) that last a minimum of three hours and a maximum of six hours. This training is important for career development, alongside accredited training and specialised training, with a maximum of five hours on scale 5 and ten hours on the remaining scales.

This legal framework applies to all teachers working in state schools, in Portuguese schools abroad and private and cooperative schools registered in the CFAE. This model ensures free compulsory continuing education for teachers. 

Specialised training

All teachers who are fully qualified and have at least five years teaching experience at the time the course is held may take a specialised course.

The following training areas are defined in the Specialised Training Legal Framework: special education; school administration and educational administration; social-cultural activities; educational guidance; curriculum development and organisation; teaching-practice supervision and training the trainers; training management and development; and communication in education and information management. Subsequently, a specialised training area was defined regarding education inspection designed for inspectors working for the Inspectorate General of Education and Science.

Specialised training courses are provided by higher education institutions and span 250 hours. The curricula include a general training section on education sciences that should not occupy more than 20 % of total instruction time, a section on the specialised area that occupies no less than 60 % of the course and a section based on a project in the area of specialisation. This training should also be submitted for accreditation by the Continuing Education Scientific-Pedagogical Council.

Incentives for participation in continuing professional development (CPD) activities

Training organised by educational administration is free for teachers. Time away from school to attend continuing professional development (CPD) is deemed work time and, as such, is remunerated. Leave of absence taken to attend training may be obtained for not more than five consecutive or eight random working days per year.

Leave of absence for CPD organised by educational administration (i.e., the Ministry of Education’s central and/or regional departments, the school/school cluster in which the teacher works) is preferentially given when training takes place during the teacher’s non-teaching hours. Whenever training cannot be done during non-teaching hours, teachers can attend during their teaching timetable. Whatever the case, training can only be authorised provided that the non-clustered school/school clusters have ensured that there will not be a break in the lessons the teacher normally gives. If the training course is upon the teacher’s own initiative, leave of absence can only be granted during school holidays.

After a written request by the teacher interested in taking CPD, it falls to the director of the school cluster/non-clustered school to grant the teacher leave of absence.