No degree? No problem

16th February 2007 at 00:00
Many teachers did not graduate in their specialism, but science bucks the trend

SCIENCE TEACHERS are by far the most qualified in the subjects they teach in secondary schools, government figures show.

They occupy the first four positions in a table showing the percentage of teachers with a degree, other than a BEd, in their subjects.

Chemistry teachers came top - 72 per cent have a degree in it - followed by biology, physics and combined and general science staff.

Derek Bell, the chief executive of the Association for Science Education, said: "These figures seem to be very encouraging but there are still 30 per cent without a degree in the disciplines they teach and we need to do more to support these teachers."

Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said there was "still a long way to go" before there were enough chemistry graduates teaching the subject.

Music, history, art, French and geography came after sciences in the figures for secondary teachers in England, which were collated by the DfES.

They were ahead of the core subjects. In English, 51 per cent of teachers have a degree in the subject, while in maths, the figure is only 42 per cent.

Sue Johnston-Wilder, the chair of the Association of Teachers of Maths, said she was even more concerned that nearly a quarter of secondary maths teachers had no post A-level qualification in the subject. The association had calculated that one in seven secondary pupils - mainly those in key stage 3 or lower sets - was being taught maths by these teachers.

"A teacher being asked to teach maths without qualifications in the subject will typically teach in a more rigid way and won't have the breadth of knowledge to respond to pupils' learning needs and teach creatively," she said.

Simon Gibbons, of the National Association for the Teaching of English, was concerned about the one-fifth of English teachers with no post A-level qualification in English. A third of the students on the PGCE secondary English course he runs at Bedfordshire university came without English degrees. But they could still have gained relevant subject knowledge through drama, media or popular and contemporary studies degrees.

"The English national curriculum is such a broad thing that everybody has massive gaps in their subject knowledge," he said. "People with English literature degrees tend to know the literary canon but may miss out on linguistics or media."

Heather Scott, the chair of the Historical Association's secondary committee, said she was "horrified" to learn that nearly a quarter of history teachers had no post A-level qualification in the subject. "Of course it matters. You have to know the ins and outs in order to be able to answer the children's questions and explain history to them.

"If the department has got these figures then why are they, year after year, cutting the number of PGCE training places in history?"

The figures also revealed which teachers were most likely to have no qualification above A-level in their subject. Two-thirds of ICT teachers were in this group, making them the least qualified if personal, social and health education, citizenship, general studies and careers were discounted.

They were followed by classics and RE.

Who's qualified to teach their subject

Secondary Teachers with no Teachers with no post A-level subject degree in subject qualification in subject

chemistry 28% 7%

biology 29% 7%

physics 37% 8%

combinedgeneral science 38% 11%

music 41% 13%

history 43% 23%

art and design 46% 20%

French 46% 23%

geography 47% 25%

English 49% 20%

German 53% 30%

maths 58% 24%

Spanish 63% 33%

classics 67% 63%

business studies 70% 43%

design technology 74% 24%

PE 75% 22%

drama 75% 45%

religious education 78% 57%

ICT 87% 69%

source: DfES

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today