Q4. How are staff encouraged to pursue continuing professional development (CPD) focused on science or maths?
Why this is important
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 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
- 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‘ for more information.
School or subject leaders may find it helpful to know about the following:
- The Teacher Development Trust has produced a CPD quality framework for self-evaluation purposes – a detailed structure to rate the quality of CPD across several areas.
- The National Science Learning Network (NSLN) is the largest source of high-quality CPD courses for science education in the UK. There are generous bursary schemes to help class teachers, science leaders and teaching assistants from publicly funded primary schools to access these courses: Project ENTHUSE supports residential courses and Impact Awards support other NSLN courses.
- Pedagogical information provided by the National STEM Centre for teachers on areas of the primary science curriculum, which the National Curriculum Science Expert Group has identified as particularly difficult to teach.35
- The Association for Science Education offers a range of CPD units to support teachers’ knowledge.
- The Primary Science Teacher College is a network of primary science teachers which also offers CPD courses.
- Working towards the Bronze, Silver or Gold Primary Science Quality Mark allows schools to evaluate and strengthen their science provision.
- The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics offers tools for auditing and self-evaluation of subject knowledge, tools for monitoring professional development, and a professional development calendar for maths-specific CPD, listing opportunities across England.36
- The network of Mathematics Hubs offers National Collaborative Projects and local professional development opportunities, led locally by outstanding schools.
Other questions in Teaching
- Q1. Do all pupils enjoy science and maths? How do teachers inspire and engage all pupils?
- Q2. What is your school’s strategy for leading and teaching science and maths?
- Q3. How is science and maths expertise identified within the school, and how is it used to best effect?