Q1. How many science and maths teachers have qualifications relevant to the subjects they teach?

Why this is important

  • In its Maintaining Curiosity report, Ofsted highlights the importance of specialist science teachers and that recruitment of permanent science specialist teachers was a factor in schools in which science achievement had markedly improved.
  • Teachers who are knowledgeable and passionate about their subject are better able2 to inspire students to achieve the best results possible and continue in education.
  • Note that 11-16 schools may have different teaching needs from 11-18 schools offering science and maths A levels; likewise, there may be different demands across Key Stages 2 and 3. You should look at how science specialist teachers are deployed throughout your school.


A specialist teacher is described by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education)2 as a teacher who:

  • has a relevant degree (or equivalent qualification such as a subject knowledge enhancement course) in the subject they teach; or
  • has had sufficient experience in the subject through their career, and gone on to complete a teaching qualification in the specialist subject.
Table 1: Highest post A level qualifications held by publicly funded qualified secondary school teachers (head count) in the subjects they taught to year groups 7-13 (for England, November 2016)
SubjectNoTeachersProportion with relevant degree or higher qualification
Proportion without a relevant post A level qualification
General Science32,70076%10%
English (for comparison)37,60068%19%

Note: The remaining teachers have post A level qualifications that are not deemed relevant to the subjects they primarily teach. Teachers qualified in biology, chemistry or physics are taken to teach general science also, so someone with a physics degree is double counted as a physics teachers and general science teacher. These figures include Key Stages 3 and 4, and post-16; it is likely that more teachers are specialist in their subject further up the schools. The ‘subject mapping tables’ on the School Workforce in England data webpage list the relevant degrees.

  • There are many more biology specialist teachers than physics and chemistry specialists.
  • A high number of teachers of science have no science specialism.
  • These figures include Key Stages 3 and 4, and post-16, and it is likely that a higher percentage of science post-16 teachers are specialist in their subject.

Teaching quality

  • Most schools assess the quality of teaching in their school throughout the year, and many schools make these assessments against Ofsted criteria. You can compare your school against the following findings from Ofsted’s ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ report:
    • 68% of Key Stage 4 science lessons were deemed good or outstanding
    • 59% of Key Stage 3 science lessons were deemed good or outstanding
    • 48% of maths teachers surveyed were deemed good or outstanding in Ofsted’s ‘Made to Measure’ report.

Ideas for improvement

  • Your school may find it easier to attract and retain specialists if it clearly prioritises science and is able to offer a reasonable proportion of specialist teaching on the timetable, as well as attractive facilities and a range of professional development opportunities. such as those offered by STEM Learning.
  • The Schools Direct school-based training route, subject knowledge enhancement courses, or upskilling your teachers through intensive professional development courses (see this question on CPD) could help your school to develop its own subject specialists.
  • Part of a governing body’s responsibility is to decide the total budget allocated to staff salaries. It is important for governors to understand how and why the budget has been set at a certain figure and consider whether the budget could be used to address staffing shortages.
  • You can check with senior leaders whether – and if so how – your school assesses teaching quality. You could then see whether teaching quality differs across Key Stages or different ability groups.

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