Helping teachers to increase their expertise in teaching their subject could help with retention problems, a Department for Education official said today.
Gareth Conyard, DfE deputy director of teacher workforce development, cited a study by the Wellcome Trust which found that science teachers who took part in subject-specific CPD courses were half as likely to leave teaching a year later, than those who did not.
“One of the inferences we can draw from that is engaging with your subject can rekindle your passion for it," he told a conference in London.
"It can also make you a more effective teacher so there clearly there is a role for subject-specific CPD in terms of helping you do better in the classroom also more broadly in recruitment and retention effect as well. We’re interested in what that looks like."
The Wellcome Trust report also made a link between subject training and school standards, finding that schools that have the poorest academic or inspection results are the least likely to prioritise subject-specific professional development.
However, Mr Conyard indicated that the decision on whether to offer subject-specific CPD would be left to schools.
When asked if the DfE would act on the issue: “If somebody is a physics graduate, recently qualified, they may not feel they need the same subject support in the first few years as someone who did a different degree and is now teaching physics, so we want people to make decisions at a local level.”
Daniel Muijs, head of research at Ofsted, speaking at the same event said that the role of subject-specific CPD – rather than more generic training – was becoming a key issue for schools which were moving towards a more knowledge-based curriculum.
Speaking after the conference Mr Muijs said: “I think if we are looking at a knowledge-rich curriculum then by definition, you are bringing teachers’ subject knowledge to the fore as a system. It makes sense, then, not have just a generic approach, but a subject-based approach. We know from research that professional development that is subject-embedded is more effective than generic CPD.”
The DfE is currently consulting on how to improve professional development for teachers and has asked whether there is a market for non-leadership national professional qualifications in subject expertise.
In terms of DfE support for subject-specific training, Mr Conyard said there was some support available for English, maths and science. The department was continuing to look at what might be appropriate for it to deliver versus what other people in the system are delivering.