Published on 16 Nov 2012 Sections

Maths and science teachers ‘least knowledgeable’

History and English teachers are likely to be more “knowledgeable” and have better degrees than those teaching maths, languages and science, the latest Good Teacher Training Guide suggests.

History and english teachers are likely to be more

The new guide for 2012 said that of trainee teachers assessed, 84 per cent of history graduates had a first class, or upper second (2.1) degree, along with 79 per cent of those training in dance and drama, and 77 per cent of English teacher trainees.

But among those training to teach information and communication technology (ICT), only 50 per cent got a first or a 2.1. Likewise, 53 per cent of trainee maths teachers had the grades for their degree, and 54 per cent of science trainees.

The Guide also revealed that subjects such as physics, chemistry, ICT and maths were more likely to have higher drop-out rates among trainees.

Produced at Buckingham University’s Centre for Education and Employment Research, researchers analysed official data on teacher training for the 2010/11 academic year, looking at where trainees study, the numbers entering the profession and the types of qualifications they hold.

State or private?

Their findings suggested that in 2010/11, 70 per cent of 37,734 teacher trainees were in teaching posts the following January; around 11,000 did not enter the profession.

Of those that did become teachers, 61 per cent went to work in state schools. Some five per cent found jobs in private schools and another five per cent were in teaching, although the sector was unknown.

Professor Alan Smithers, who authored the report, said that for the year examined, teacher training was a two-stage process with individuals doing their training and then looking for a job.

“Some people start with teacher training and it becomes clear to them that they are not going to make good teachers, and others successfully complete and they’re not necessarily able to find a job,” he said.

But of the discrepancies between the degree grades of teachers in various subjects, he said: “It means that children are more likely to find themselves with knowledgeable teachers in subjects like history and English than in maths, the physical sciences and ICT.

“In the case of the physical sciences and maths, one of the main attractions to studying those subjects is the love of abstract patterns, and of course that’s a very different satisfaction from spending all of your days with 20 or 30 boisterous young people.”


The government has announced that new bursaries of up to £20,000 are available next year for people with top degrees to become teachers in subjects like science and modern foreign languages.

But Prof Smithers said: “For mathematicians and physicists, there are a lot of employment opportunities, even those very generous bursaries of £20,000 may not overcome this.

“It’s a big short-term incentive, but it may not overcome the aspects that mathematicians and physicists may not necessarily enjoy teaching.”

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