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Science staff left out of the training club

PRIMARY science co-ordinators in England are missing out on in-service training because so much attention is devoted to literacy and numeracy. But nine out of 10 primary and secondary subject specialists are involved in long-term professional development of some kind - and most are changing their classroom practice as a result.

These findings have emerged from a Manchester University survey of 499 primary and 355 secondary subject leaders in 60 schools. It found that while about 96 per cent of English and maths primary co-ordinators in both sectors had participated in a workshop or conference last year, only 79 per cent of science specialists had been offered such opportunities.

The Manchester researchers told the American Educational Research Association conference that their findings were "immensely encouraging".

But they noted that primary science co-ordinators also missed out on longer-term professional development, such as coaching, observing colleagues, or sharing practice.

"These results highlight the pressure the teaching profession is under to meet government pupil attainment targets (in maths and English)," the researchers said.

Overall, almost four in five teachers said undertaking long-term professional development had led them to change their practice. Around half cited changes to planning, and more than two in five to their teaching style. Nearly two in five now assess pupils differently and 28 per cent had revised some aspect of their classroom management.

English teachers, both primary and secondary, were more likely than other subject specialists to change their classroom practice and teaching style.

The most highly rated form of training was classroom observation. But more than a fifth said online courses were of poor quality.

The researchers will now try to link changes in teacher practice resulting from professional development to pupil test scores.

* The lack of research into the effects that in-service training has on pupils was highlighted by Thomas Guskey, of Kentucky University. He said that enhancing teachers' subject and pedagogical knowledge may result in big improvements in pupil achievement in inner-city schools with high numbers of unqualified or non-specialist teachers. But in a more affluent school, able to retain good-quality teachers, another kind of training might prove more effective.

"What makes professional development for teachers effective?", Bill Boyle, Marie Brown, Anthony Haynes and David While, Manchester University. Contact bill.boyle@man.ac.uk."The characteristics of effective professional development: a synthesis of lists", Thomas R Guskey, Kentucky University.

Contact guskey@uky.edu

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