Q4. How are staff encouraged to pursue continuing professional development (CPD) focused on science or maths?

Why this is important

The evidence suggests that the most effective teachers combine subject knowledge with pedagogical skill to bring subjects to life for their pupils. High quality CPD is essential to this. It will provide them with in-depth, contemporary and relevant subject knowledge; engaging teaching techniques; understanding of how topics connect; and up-to-date teaching practices, for example in hands-on work or the use of digital technologies.

Ofsted states that school leaders have a responsibility to ensure that teachers receive the relevant training to assess pupils in science and maths, give effective feedback and set challenging targets.30 There was a significant link between accessing science CPD and being judged to have outstanding primary science in Oftsted’s ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ report. Ofsted’s ‘Mathematics: Made to Measure’ report had similar findings.31

The Royal Society 2014 ‘Vision’ report recommends that subject-specific professional development should be a core requirement for teachers.29 Wellcome’s report on science and maths leadership in primary schools suggests that high-quality science-specific CPD opportunities are important for teaching assistants, particularly in schools following the class teacher model (see Figure 1).32

The National STEM Learning Centre is the primary provider of high-quality science CPD in England.

  • 99% of teachers, teaching assistants and technicians on Science Learning Centre courses reported impact on their own teaching practice, with 77% of these reporting a direct impact on pupils.26
  • 93% of participants on National STEM Learning Centre courses reported a direct impact on their pupils, and 95% of participants reported having shared their learning with other colleagues.27
  • After taking part in the Maths Specialist Teacher (MaST) programme, 92% of teachers reported that their teaching quality had improved to a great extent, and all teachers reported some impact.28


The Schools Financial Benchmarking34 website allows schools to compare their income and expenditure with other similar schools. Schools can find out the expenditure of other schools on staff development and training per pupil and compare it with their own.

The TIMSS 2015 international survey found that teachers of science to Year 5 pupils in England, on average, undertook the following CPD with the previous two years:

  • 37% science content
  • 32% science pedagogy
  • 47% science curriculum
  • 30% science assessment
  • 23% integrating science with other subjects

Ideas for improvement

CPD includes:

  • subject-specific professional development courses
  • engagement with subject associations
  • keeping up-to-date with science and maths through reading, networking and online communities
  • developing ideas with colleagues, for example peer-to-peer observation, coaching or mentoring
  • taking part in research or keeping up-to-date with evidence-based practice; NFER has produced a tool to help schools become better engaged with research.

Governors play a vital role in ensuring appropriate CPD is both offered and undertaken:

  • Governors must ensure that sufficient resources and time are devoted to CPD, including subject-specific CPD, and that this is available to subject leaders, class teachers and teaching assistants. Governors should consider whether CPD should be on the school’s strategic priorities, and ensure sufficient funding for CPD is put aside when deciding the budget.
  • Schools should have a system in place to internally assess teaching quality. Governors should be aware of how this is undertaken. Identifying weaknesses in teaching quality can highlight areas in which CPD for teachers could be beneficial, allowing prioritisation of the school budget.
  • See the National Governors Association’s briefing note ‘Knowing your School: Governors and staff performance‘[35] for more information.

School or subject leaders may find it helpful to know about the following:

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