Ofsted slates lack of professional training in non-core subjects

2nd April 2010 at 01:00
Narrow focus does little to improve teachers' expertise and schools are failing to recognise 'value for money' of CPD courses, watchdog says

Teachers are still not getting the training they need in individual subjects outside English and maths, Ofsted has found.

The watchdog's report on continuing professional development (CPD) in schools also warns that schools do not pay enough attention to assessing the value for money offered by training programmes.

Inspectors visited 40 primary, secondary, special and nursery schools previously judged to be "good" or "outstanding" in terms of the training they offered teachers.

They found they were flexible when planning the training and offered it to teaching and non-teaching staff. But a lack of training related to specific subjects, first identified in an Ofsted report on CPD in 2006, persisted.

"Despite investing time in substantial in-house training on generic issues, schools sometimes paid insufficient attention to considering the implications for individual subjects," the new report says. "After a whole-school launch on the new key stage 3 curriculum, some subject departments did not get the specialist support needed to adapt programmes to the new developments."

The problem was particularly bad in primary schools but was also a fault in secondaries, Ofsted said.

The subject training secondary teachers did receive was "often narrowly focused" on preparation for new exam specifications rather than deepening professional expertise.

And where good external courses were available, they were undersubscribed, partly because schools did not give a priority to the subject.

"The effect on teaching and learning is clear," the report says. "Ofsted's recent survey of primary teachers' subject knowledge found that, in lessons where teaching was 'satisfactory' and even in a few where it was judged to be 'good' overall, there were specific weaknesses in teachers' subject knowledge, which meant that pupils' achievement was not as high as it might have been.

"This also applied to secondary schools, particularly where they did not provide enough training in subjects taught by non-specialists."

Citizenship and personal, social and health education were identified as having a particular lack of training. Specialist training was more likely to be available in languages and PE in primaries that were part of a national initiative. But these were exceptions. Evaluation of CPD in schools was weak, even where provision was good, the inspectors found.

"Senior managers relied on anecdotal evidence and subjective impressions to judge the impact of training and support," they report. "This sometimes led to a more positive view than was warranted."

One secondary judged an initiative to improve pupil progress as successful even though its contextual value-added scores had remained static for four years.

"Weak evaluation gave too little attention to the value for money provided by professional development programmes, despite the time and cost involved," the report says. It calls on schools to ensure that subject knowledge is regularly updated and that most CPD is school-based.

Christine Blower, general secretary of teaching union the NUT, said: "The report makes a vital point that it is professional development, owned by teachers, which is the key to teachers' self-confidence and knowledge about teaching and their subjects.

"There is every argument for Government to drop the proposal of a licence to practise and develop a fully funded teacher entitlement to professional development."


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