To become a teacher in Massachusetts, the highest-performing state in the US in national tests, you need to have strong subject knowledge. Similarly, in the much-lauded Finnish system, teachers are required to possess a master's degree unless they are teaching preschool. Research from the Sutton Trust has also emphasised that "solid" knowledge of the subject to be taught is essential for high-quality teaching.
The latest report from the same charity, Teaching by Degrees, however, reveals that new teachers with the greatest subject knowledge - a postgraduate degree - tend to gravitate to independent schools rather than the state sector.
Almost one in 15 teachers in these schools has a PhD compared with one in 40 in the state sector. Richard Sheriff, headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School, is in no doubt of the benefits. "Having clever people teaching kids helps them to be clever," he says.
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