Ofsted boss calls for teachers to prove subject knowledge to stay qualified


Teachers should have to prove their subject knowledge is up-to-date at regular intervals to maintain their qualified status, a top Ofsted boss has said.

Professor Daniel Muijs (pictured), the watchdog’s head of research, said he supported a “periodic requirement” for teachers to demonstrate they know about the latest research and discoveries in their subject area.

Speaking to Schools Week at a Westminster Education Forum, Muijs said the Chartered College of Teaching should work with subject associations to develop a professional development programme for each subject.

At the end of the programme teachers would be “recertified” as either qualified or chartered teachers. The proposal is not Ofsted’s official policy, so much as an idea Muijs is “looking at”, and one which he would welcome in the sector.

Rather than saying the subject knowledge you acquired 30 years ago is still valid, this is to ensure professionals are up-to-date in the latest developments

“Rather than saying the subject knowledge you acquired 30 years ago is still valid, this is to ensure professionals are up-to-date in the latest developments,” he explained.
“It would make sense to have a periodic requirement to do a certain amount of professional development around subject knowledge, that would be a requirement for recertification as a qualified or chartered teacher.”

Rather than observing teachers in lessons on their subject knowledge, subject associations should develop accredited programmes for them to attend.

“So for example, the Mathematical Association offers an accredited set of professional development awards, and if you do that then it’s proof that you have refreshed your knowledge,” he suggested.

Subject knowledge CPD is becoming more important as many schools move towards a knowledge-based curriculum, he told delegates.

The Department for Education has also said it wants more teachers to do subject-specific CPD, and £75 million was announced last September for knowledge-based and skills training as part of the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund.

But Alison Peacock, the chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, said it should be up to teachers whether they wished to undertake subject-specific CPD.

Alison Peacock

The college will support initiatives that already exist, such as the ‘chartered science teacher status’, she told Schools Week.

“What I would want the Chartered College to do is amplify more of what’s coming on in the subject associations,” she said. “So if you’re the kind of teacher who sees this as something you’re excited about, we want to help give you the chance to do that.”

Asked whether the college would develop a formal subject-specific chartered teacher status alongside subject associations, Peacock said there will be more talks between the two sides “down the track”.

Dr Jennie Golding, a past president of the Mathematical Association, told delegates that specialist chartered status might tackle the “three- to five-year slump” many teachers suffer in their early careers, by providing a motivational goal and extra support.

However Gareth Conyard, the DfE’s deputy director of the Teacher Workforce Development team, said there were no specific plans to develop specialist subject CPD programmes.
There is already “some support available for English, maths and science,” and the DfE’s curriculum team “will continue to look at what might be appropriate for us to deliver versus other people”.

The DfE is however encouraged by evidence that teachers who do subject-specific training become more engaged with their jobs, he added, and is “interested in understanding” how that could help with retention.

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  1. More important than proving their knowledge of a subject, teachers should demonstrate the ability to know how to acquire knowledge and how to allow pupils to acquire knowledge. The curriculum is not static and, more important than demonstrating currently required factual knowledge, is a teacher’s adaptability.
    The current focus on rote learning of facts and knowledge benefit the companies which set exams and print text books. It does not benefit the future development of the country. Nor does it help future generations of adults keep pace with developments.
    It is very clear from the insane postings on Facebook that many posting do not have the basic research skills to check if what they are posting is true or recent.

    • Tom Burkard

      “It is very clear from the insane postings on Facebook that many posting do not have the basic research skills to check if what they are posting is true or recent.”
      The same could be said about your comments. The only school subject that changes to the extent that it affects the curriculum from year to year is ICT. Or perhaps what the arbiters of PC think we should be allowed to say. But in Science or Maths, recent developments are so far removed from what pupils can understand that Euclid is more relevant to the curriculum than Hawking.
      And when it comes to rote learning of facts and knowledge, cognitive scientists have proved beyond question that it’s impossible to think effectively about any given subject without a vast inventory of knowledge which can be recalled whenever needed. The notion that we can teach generic ‘thinking skills’ is pure moonshine–there is no quantitative evidence to support this. Likewise, anyone can use google, but to use it effectively you need to know what to type in the bar. And asking purposeful questions leads us right back to the same point: you really do need to know a lot about a subject in order to ask the right questions–and to understand the answers.

  2. Given the longstanding problem of inspectors’ knowledge being out of date, maybe Muijs ought to first concentrate on a test to recertify that.
    And isn’t Muijs there to help grow Ofsted as an education research organisation? Why is he “looking at” recertification? Anyone would think he’s been brought on board for his politics rather than his experience.

  3. If my subject knowledge has to be up to date then the textbooks need to be up to date too. I’m sure other colleagues have noticed that that the NC tends to be about 20 years behind! This is just another case of Ofsted trying to justify their meddling, stress inducing, negative impact on hard working, professional teachers.

  4. Robert Keenan

    Teachers have enough to do at the government and osfsted requirements to degree I agree with what you are saying but Special needs education is so out of date and then getting education areas in this system need to be brought up to date.

  5. Peter Simpson

    This is all well and good but far too often schools do not have the money, resources or time to allow teachers to go on CPD courses of any kind, especially when there are so many other calls on a teachers CPD time.
    Back this idea up with time taken from the normal teacher’s working day and money for cover then I suspect most teachers would be happy to improve their subject knowledge.
    That said most teachers do this kind of thing in their own time because they are dedicated professionals.
    I suspect this will be another initiative which drains a teacher’s personal time.