Uptake of CPD
5.3. Witnesses were gloomy about the level of
subject-specific CPD being undertaken by science teachers. Phil
Bunyan of CLEAPSS warned that the INSET days, designed to allow
teachers to undergo CPD, were "rarely used for subject specific
improvement" but were set aside for "general CPD"
(Q 209). Moreover, a recent Wellcome Trust survey found that
"half of all secondary school science teachers have had no
subject-related CPD in the past five years" and that 73 per
cent "wanted more subject-relating training" (p 220).
Similarly, Ofsted reported that "teachers have told inspectors
of the low levels of continuing professional development on science-specific
topics" (p 39).
5.4. The Wellcome Trust concluded that "there
is still not a culture that encourages subject-specific CPD to
be viewed as an entitlement" (p 220), whilst the Royal Society
suggested that "continuing professional development ... must
become a statutory entitlement acknowledged by a fully funded
and integrated system of professional recognition". For example,
this could be achieved by "earmarking to subject-specific
professional development at least one day of the existing annual
teacher INSET entitlement" (p 62). This echoes our recommendation
in an earlier report that "regular time must be formally
allocated to subject-specific development".
5.5. If there is to be a formal entitlement to
subject-specific CPD, it should allow schools maximum flexibility
since it is they who are responsible for providing the necessary
funding. For example, it may be desirable to allow schools to
meet the entitlement by providing in-house subject-specific CPD
rather than insisting that all teachers go on an external CPD
course every year. However, it would be necessary to provide guidelines
to ensure that the entitlement was met with CPD of a sufficiently
high quality genuinely to benefit teachers.
5.6. Moreover, many schools struggle to find
or pay for supply teachers to cover staff undergoing external
CPD. As the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the United
Kingdom (CaSE) noted, "funding does not exist to provide
cover for staff who are away from the classroom, and there is
in any case such a shortage of science teachers that even if funds
were available, it is not clear that, at present, high-quality
cover could be guaranteed" (p 142). Similarly, Dr John
Oversby noted that "a major barrier is the lack of supply
cover caused by the endemic shortage of science teachers"
(p 190) and the Society for General Microbiology commented that
"funding for supply cover is an important but often overlooked
factor in ensuring that teachers benefit from the in-service training
opportunities available" (p 217). One option is to encourage
the use of higher level teaching assistants to cover teachers.
Alternatively, the Institution of Engineering and Technology called
for "regional/local teams of science specialists [to] provide
cover across an LEA where required" (p 155). Both solutions
carry funding implications.
5.7. However, even if a formal entitlement to
subject-specific CPD were to be put in place, there is no guarantee
that all or even most teachers would make use of the opportunity.
Indeed, the Institute of Physics noted that "the teachers
most in need of help are the slowest coming forward". There
needed to be "a culture change within the teaching profession,
where all teachers feel obliged to engage in professional development"
5.8. This raises the question of whether it should
be mandatory for science teachers to undertake a certain amount
of CPD each year. The Biosciences Federation believed that it
should be mandatory, since this would ensure that "teachers'
knowledge and understanding of the curriculum stays up-to-date
and that their teaching skills are regularly developed, including
their ability to teach outside their specialist subject"
(p 66). This is a persuasive argument, particularly given that
other professionals such as solicitors are required to accrue
a certain number of CPD hours each year.
5.9. Other witnesses were more wary. Dr Colin
Osborne of the Royal Society of Chemistry argued that "mandatory
smacks of coercion" and suggested that INSET days had "failed"
because of such an approach. Professor Margaret Brown of the Advisory
Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) felt that linking CPD
to "the different stages in teaching careers" was a
far more "positive" approach than compulsion (Q 136).
5.10. However, the Science Learning Centres argued
that "incentives for teachers to take part in CPD are not
yet embedded in the profession". Nonetheless, it was felt
that "this may slowly change with the introduction by TDA
of the new framework of professional standards for teachers"
(p 175). Dr Stephen Baker of the TDA reinforced this impression,
noting that the proposed new professional standards had "at
[their] centre a requirement that teachers remain up-to-date ...
with the new developments in ... pedagogy and subject knowledge"
(Q 208). Similarly, Julie Bramman of the DfES said that they would
"include standards about keeping your subject knowledge up-to-date
and showing that you are taking CPD seriously" (Q 48). Indeed,
the Government commented, "teachers will need to demonstrate
increasing mastery of their subject teaching in order to progress"
(p 7). It is thus to be hoped that the new standards will go some
way to fulfilling our recommendation in an earlier report that
CPD "should be linked to a clear development structure at
all levels of the profession".
5.11. The Government also pointed to the 15th
report of the School Teachers' Review Body which "recommended
that the outcomes of engagement in professional development be
taken into account as part of a range of evidence when schools
assess performance for pay progression purposes", suggesting
that "this focus will help to incentivise participation in
CPD that makes a positive impact" (p 7). Whilst the wording
of this proposal is unnecessarily hedged and vague, we endorse
the principle contained therein.
5.12. Reflecting this principle, the Government
have introduced the Excellent Teacher Scheme, whereby candidates
will have to demonstrateamong other thingsthat they
"have developed themselves professionally" in order
to qualify for the grade, which comes with a higher salary. Excellent
Teachers will be expected to act as role models to other teachers
within the school, to share best practice and to help their colleagues
to develop their expertise.
These functions will in turn be a beneficial source of CPD for
5.13. However, John Bangs of the NUT was wary
of the new scheme, claiming that "it has been introduced
as a way of capping teachers' movement up the main scale and capping
the costs". He also felt that there would be confusion between
the Excellent Teacher grade and the Advanced Skills Teacher (AST)
grade, which differs from the former in that it requires ASTs
to provide outreach support to teachers in other schools. In summary,
said Mr Bangs, "there is real overlap and confusion"
5.14. Another way to encourage teachers constantly
to improve the quality of their teaching is to offer accreditation
in return for excellence. The Science Learning Centres argued
that "a systematic and well-understood framework of professional
accreditation would incentivise teachers to engage in CPD, in
the way that other professionals such as medics and chartered
accountants do" (p 175). The ASE's Chartered Science Teacher
(CSciTeach) scheme provides such a framework, recognising and
accrediting excellence in teaching. The criteria for attaining
CSciTeach status include having "engaged in, and reflected
on, appropriate professional development" and having "work[ed]
with colleagues and others in developing science education beyond
Moreover, as Dr Derek Bell of the ASE pointed out, those who achieve
the status "have to keep up-to-date" and be reassessed
every five years (Q 208).
5.15. Teachers can be further incentivised if
CPD contributes towards a Master's degree. Dr Michael Day of the
TDA told us that "a lot of universities have been looking
at changing their PGCE courses, their initial teacher training
courses, to give credits on those courses for Master's degrees",
with teachers being able to add to them "through doing diplomas,
certificates or other pieces of work over the first two or three
years of their career, which builds up to a Master's degree".
The TDA would also look at its funding procedures with a view
to creating "a continuous programme" for teachers wishing
to attain a Master's degree. However, Dr Derek Bell warned that
"a significant number of universities still do not always
accept credits from one to another" and argued that "if
you have credits, they have to have universal currency" (Q
5.16. Whilst we welcome the Government's attempts
to link continuing professional development (CPD) to career progression,
we remain unconvinced that those teachers who could most benefit
from subject-specific CPD will take advantage of such opportunities.
We therefore recommend that the Government introduce a requirement
for all teacherswhatever their subjectto undertake
a certain number of hours of subject-specific CPD each year. We
further recommend that the Government provide schools with ring-fenced
funding for supply teachers to cover staff on external CPD courses,
whilst simultaneously giving urgent consideration to how the availability
of supply teachers or higher level teaching assistants can be
Provision of CPD
5.17. We now consider the provision of subject-specific
CPD, which can come in many forms. As the ASE commented, it should
comprise "a balance of elements including attendance on courses
and conferences, time working with colleagues in schools and personal
reading and reflection" (p 99).
5.18. An additional form of CPD is the sharing
of best practice between schools. Indeed, the teachers at Little
Heath School, Reading, told us that local cluster groups, enabling
teachers to meet on regular occasions to swap best practice, were
highly effective vehicles for CPD. Specialist schools in particular
are encouraged to act as exemplars to local schools. However,
there does not appear to be a formal mechanism for encouraging
schools performing poorly in scienceor any other subjectto
liaise with nearby schools which may be able to offer assistance
to teachers. Ian Richardson of Ofsted merely pointed out that
"by the publication of our reports we do spread good practice"
5.19. We have already recommended that Ofsted
revisit the new subject-specific inspection regime with a view
to devising a system which draws evidence from a substantially
larger number of schools. Following on from this, we recommend
that the Government, along with Ofsted, explore more formal mechanisms
to promote contact between schools performing poorly in science
or mathematics and better performing schools in the area. This
would enable teachers, teaching assistants and technicians to
share best practice and to find out how they might improve their
5.20. Subject-specific CPD courses are offered
by a range of providers, but the provision of such courses has
been boosted significantly by the new network of ten Science Learning
Centres (nine regional centres and one national centre in York)
funded by the Government and the Wellcome Trust. The latter told
us that the centres "provide a network for professional development
in science teaching, supporting science teachers and technicians
to develop new skills and experiment with innovative techniques".
Over 9,000 training days had been delivered at the centres in
2005 and "the feedback from those who attend has been consistently
positive" (p 220).
5.21. During our visit to the National Science
Learning Centre in York we were highly impressed by the excellent
facilitiesincluding well-equipped laboratories and comfortable
accommodation for those taking the coursesand the enthusiasm
of the staff. Sitting in on one of the classes for chemistry teachers,
it was clear that the courses are an effective means of imparting
new ideas and information about science teaching, as well as a
valuable opportunity for teachers to meet colleagues from other
schools and to discuss best practice techniques. Most courses
are in three parts: an initial residential session, a period allowing
teachers to put new ideas into practice back in school, and a
final residential session. This ensures that teachers gain maximum
benefit from the experience. Moreover, attendees are encouraged
to stay in touch through the user-friendly web portal.
5.22. The Science Learning Centres were generally
welcomed by witnesses. The Royal Academy of Engineering felt that
they had "laid the foundations for providing a more sustained
and comprehensive framework of CPD provision for teachers"
(p 200) whilst the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
hoped that "all science teachers will be encouraged and supported
by the Government, and by their school or college, to attend courses
at one of the centres" (p 129). However, Mike Wheale, Head
Teacher of Little Heath School, Reading felt that sending staff
to the local Science Learning Centre was not necessarily the best
use of resources and suggested that the funding should "follow
the teacher" as a consumer of training services, rather than
going direct to the provider and risking duplication of provision.
5.23. The British Ecological Society, whilst
supporting the Science Learning Centres, noted that three of six
science departments recently approached "did not know what
the Science Learning Centres were or their role in the professional
development of teachers". Although this was a small sample,
it was felt that "much more effort needs to be placed on
marketing this resource to teachers in schools" if the uptake
of courses was to be increased (p 138). Greater uptake of courses
is essential if the Centres are to be viable.
5.24. A more serious issue is the payment of
course fees and the cost of providing teacher cover for attendees.
As the Wellcome Trust noted, "early indications from teachers
attending courses ... are that they can only attend courses if
there is external funding to assist with the cost of supply cover
and course fees" (p 220). Currently, most attendees at the
National Science Learning Centre in fact have their costs met
by Wellcome Trust bursariesprovided they can show that
their attendance will have a beneficial impact on their schoolalthough
teacher cover is not provided. Similarly, the Government provide
subsidies to help reduce the fees for those attending the regional
centres. However, these subsidies are time limited and it is not
clear what will happen after they end.
5.25. Dr Derek Bell of the ASE felt that the
prospects for the centres were "fairly bleak" once the
bursaries have come to an end but the Schools Minister, Jim Knight
MP, hoped that "by teachers getting the experience and schools
having the experience [whilst the bursaries are in operation]
they will then continue to value it" (QQ 209, 49). However,
even the core funding for the centres is not guaranteed: the Wellcome
Trust has committed to a ten year investment (with reduced funding
from year five) for the National Science Learning Centre, whilst
the Government have committed funding to the regional centres
for the current spending review period. When we pressed Lord Adonis
about future funding, he stated that "we will be monitoring
the situation very carefully, and ... we will see that will happen
in the next spending review" and added that "there are
large budgets in the Department ... and I am sure there will continue
to be large budgets, so the key priorities will remain key priorities"
5.26. We welcome the new Science Learning
Centres, but have serious concerns that they will not be able
to attract a sufficient number of attendees once the bursaries
have come to an end. We urge the Government to work with the Wellcome
Trust to determine how bursaries can continue to be provided in
the longer-term, to ensure that the centres are able to flourish.
5.27. The Government have also recently launched
the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics.
A "virtual" centre, it is designed "to support,
broker and quality assure CPD" and it will "have a role
in stimulating demand among teachers" (p 8). The Mathematical
Association welcomed the Centre as "an immensely valuable
initiative" but warned that "its activities will make
little impact unless teachers are given adequate time to engage
with what it has to offer" (p 158). Similarly, Professor
Margaret Brown of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education
(ACME) feared that "the time will not be found for teachers
to interact with their fellow teachers in their own and local
schools" (Q 138). This once again emphasises the importance
of providing teachers with an entitlement to a certain amount
of subject-specific CPD each year.
37 Science in Schools, p 8. Back
ibid, p 7. Back
See http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=8482. Back
See http://www.ase.org.uk/htm/thease/csci_teach/eis_art.pdf. Back