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Specialist teachers

The issue

There is an unacceptable shortage of chemistry and physics teachers in England which is thought to impact upon pupils' attainment and attitude of these subjects.

Policy advice 

For the purpose of data collection, the Government should adopt the clear and robust definition of a 'subject specialist' teacher developed by SCORE in its briefing paper Subject specialist teaching in the sciences: definition, targets and data.  This will help towards obtaining a more precise estimate of the number of specialist teachers currently teaching biology, chemistry and physics in maintained schools.  

The SCORE definition states that every science teacher should be classified as a (full) subject specialist and/or an additional subject specialist and/or a non-specialist for each of the compulsory science subjects. These definitions refer only to the subject knowledge held by a teacher through qualifications or past employment outside of school. They do not refer to teaching expertise or the subjects that the teachers currently teach.

 Using the SCORE definitions, data should be collected on an annual basis to provide a detailed and accurate record of the specialist subject status of new entrants into teaching, teachers in-service and of those choosing to leave or return.

There should be mechanisms in place that encourage schools to have a full complement of specialist teachers in the sciences, both in the primary and secondary teaching workforce, and that they are suitably deployed.

A longitudinal study is required to explore the existence of any correlation between teacher subject specialist qualifications, deployment and the quality of teaching and learning (based on pupil attainment and progression). Such a study would provide robust evidence on the impact of Subject Specialist, Additional Subject Specialist and Non-Specialist teachers.


On 24 June 2011 SCORE published a briefing paper on specialist teaching in the sciences.  The briefing paper sets out a number of recommendations with the view to obtaining a more precise estimate of the number of specialist teachers working in biology, chemistry and physics. A more precise estimate will help towards addressing the current imbalance of specialist teachers in the sciences in maintained sector schools and towards gathering robust evidence on how subject specialism impacts on teaching and learning.    

formed a working group to consider the term specialist teacher in the science and how the qualification history of a teacher reflects the quality of teaching. The working group formed in May 2010 and is currently scoping potential research projects to provide evidence based policy. 

Engagement with the science community

The SCORE partnership held a seminar on 5 February 2010 to seek the views of the wider science and science education community on the registration and accreditation of expert teachers in the science.

SCORE has established a working group on specialist teaching and ITT to input into the first working group meeting.