Using the DfE’s Teachers’ Standards to promote high-quality education
In this blog, Matt Bromley, education writer and adviser with over twenty years’ experience in teaching and leadership, discusses the salient points of the DfE’s Teachers’ Standards. He explores the background to their publication, and the content and purpose of the standards, and explains how they can be used to promote high-quality education and professional growth.
The DfE’s Teachers’ Standards say that a teacher must:
1. set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils. This includes establishing a safe and stimulating environment, setting goals that stretch and challenge pupils, and demonstrating consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils.
2. promote good progress and outcomes by pupils. This includes being accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes, being aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and planning teaching to build on these, guiding pupils to reflect on the progress they have made and their emerging needs, and encouraging pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their own work and study.
3. demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge. This includes having a secure knowledge of the curriculum, demonstrating a critical understanding of developments in the curriculum, and demonstrating an understanding of and taking responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English.
4. plan and teach well-structured lessons. This includes imparting knowledge and developing understanding through effective use of lesson time, promoting a love of learning, and setting homework and planning other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend pupils’ knowledge and understanding.
5. adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils. This includes knowing when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively, and having a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these. It also includes demonstrating an awareness of the physical, social and intellectual development of children, and knowing how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at different stages of development.
6. make accurate and productive use of assessment. This includes knowing and understanding how to assess, making use of formative and summative assessment to secure pupils’ progress, and giving pupils regular feedback, both orally and through accurate marking, and encouraging pupils to respond to the feedback.
7. manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment. This includes having clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, having high expectations of behaviour, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly, and maintaining good relationships with pupils.
The above standards all represent elements of teaching – planning, delivering, and assessing learning. However, the eighth standard, which defines a teacher’s wider profession duties, is just as important.
The eighth standard highlights the importance of making a positive contribution to the wider life and ethos of the school. This includes developing effective professional relationships with colleagues, knowing how and when to draw on advice and specialist support, taking responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate teacher professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues, and communicating effectively with parents regarding students’ achievements and wellbeing.
About the teachers standards
The standards were introduced in July 2011 and last updated in December 2021 to reflect the use of changing terminology in the sector.
The standards have statutory force under regulation 6(8)(a) of the Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations of 2012. In other words, they are issued by law and, as such, teachers must follow them unless there’s a good reason not to.
The standards replaced the ‘standards for qualified teacher status’ and the ‘core professional standards’, previously published by the former Training and Development Agency for Schools. It’s important to note that these represent the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers, not the entirety of a teacher’s roles and responsibilities, and that they apply to all teachers regardless of career stage.
Appropriate self-evaluation, reflection and professional development are critical to improving a teacher’s practice, and the Teachers’ Standards set out the key areas in which a teacher should be able to assess his or her own practice, and receive feedback from colleagues.
As their careers progress, teachers are expected to extend the depth and breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding that they demonstrate in meeting the standards, as is judged to be appropriate to the role they are fulfilling and the context in which they are working.
Why the Teachers’ Standards are important
The Teachers' Standards are important for several reasons, as they serve as a foundational framework that outlines the expectations and responsibilities of teachers in their professional practice.
Here are some key reasons why the Teachers' Standards matter:
1. Quality education. The standards ensure that teachers provide high-quality education to students, promoting effective teaching practices that lead to positive learning outcomes.
2. Student achievement. By setting high expectations and promoting good progress, the standards contribute to improved student achievement and academic success.
3. Accountability. The standards provide a clear set of expectations for teachers' performance, making it possible to assess their effectiveness and hold them accountable for their professional practice.
4. Consistency. The standards promote consistency in teaching quality across different schools and classrooms, ensuring that students receive a similar level of education, regardless of their location.
5. Professional development. The standards encourage teachers to engage in continuous professional development, fostering a culture of lifelong learning and growth.
6. Equity and inclusion. By requiring teachers to adapt their teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all students, the standards promote equitable and inclusive education.
7. Safe learning environment. Effective behaviour management and the creation of a safe learning environment contribute to a positive classroom atmosphere that enhances students' well-being and engagement.
8. Curriculum and subject knowledge. The standards ensure that teachers possess strong subject and curriculum knowledge, which is essential for effective instruction and student comprehension.
9. Professionalism. The standards uphold professionalism among teachers, guiding their conduct and ethical behaviour within the educational community.
10. Professional collaboration. The standards encourage teachers to collaborate with colleagues, promoting a sense of community and shared learning experiences.
11. Public confidence. The standards help build public confidence in the education system by showcasing a commitment to quality teaching and student success.
12. Continuous improvement. The standards provide a framework for teachers to reflect on their practice, identify areas for improvement, and strive for excellence in their teaching methods.
In short, the Teachers' Standards play a critical role in shaping the professional identity of teachers, guiding their interactions with students and colleagues, and ensuring that the educational experience provided to students is of the highest quality.
The purpose of the Teachers’ Standards
The purpose of the Teachers' Standards, then, is to provide a clear and comprehensive framework that outlines the expectations and requirements for teachers' professional practice.
These standards serve as a reference for teachers, education institutions, and educational authorities to ensure that teachers are equipped to provide high-quality education to students.
The Teachers' Standards serve several important purposes:
1. Guidance and expectations. The standards define the expectations for teachers' performance and conduct, offering guidance on how teachers should approach their roles in the classroom and beyond.
2. Quality assurance. The standards serve as a quality assurance mechanism, ensuring that teachers meet a certain level of competence and professionalism in their teaching practices.
3. Professional development. The standards encourage teachers to engage in continuous professional development to enhance their skills and stay updated on best practices in education.
4. Accountability. The standards provide a basis for evaluating and assessing teachers' performance, helping educational institutions hold teachers accountable for their teaching effectiveness.
5. Ethical Conduct. The standards underscore the importance of ethical conduct, professionalism, and maintaining the highest standards of integrity.
6. Reflection and Improvement. The standards prompt teachers to reflect on their practice, identify areas for growth, and continuously improve their teaching methods.
How the Teachers’ Standards should be used
Writing in the introduction to the standards, Dame Sally Coates, Chair of the Independent Review of Teachers’ Standards and Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, said, “Nothing has more impact on a child’s achievement than the quality of teaching they receive and in the new standards for teachers we have prioritised the importance of classroom practice and subject knowledge.”
According to the DfE’s supporting documentation, “practising teachers can use the Teachers’ Standards to support their own professional development and growth”.
In particular, they can be used by individual teachers to review their practice and inform their plans for continuing professional development. This includes using them as a rubric for lesson observations. The standards say that the most successful education systems in the world are characterised by high levels of lesson observation. Teachers benefit from observing one another’s practice in the classroom. Teachers learn best from other professionals. Observing teaching and being observed, and having the opportunity to plan, prepare, reflect and teach with other teachers can help to improve the quality of teaching. Many teachers are keen to improve their own practice by having feedback on their teaching from colleagues and from observing the practice of others.
Furthermore, those involved in training and inducting early career teachers can use the Teachers’ Standards to ensure quality of new entrants to the profession.
In fact, the Teachers’ Standards must be used by initial teacher training (ITT) providers to assess when trainees can be recommended for qualified teacher status. They must be used by schools to assess the extent to which early career teachers can demonstrate their competence at the end of their induction period.
Headteachers and others can use the Teachers’ Standards, too, in order to improve standards of teaching in their schools, by setting minimum expectations and assessing performance against them.
In fact, the Teachers’ Standards must be used by maintained schools to assess teachers’ performance. The standards can be used by all schools to identify development needs and plan teacher professional development.
The DfE says that headteachers and other appraisers should use their professional judgement and common sense to assess teachers to a level that is consistent with what should reasonably be expected of that teacher, given their role and level of experience.
Teachers applying to access the upper pay range will be assessed as to whether they are highly competent in all elements of the Teachers’ Standards, and whether their achievements and contribution to an educational setting or settings are substantial and sustained. In addition to the Teachers’ Standards, governing bodies have the option of also assessing headteachers’ performance against the 2020 Headteachers’ Standards.
Ofsted inspectors will consider the extent to which the Teachers’ Standards are being met when assessing the quality of teaching in all schools (including academies).
And finally, the Teaching Regulation Agency can use Part Two of the Teachers’ Standards when hearing cases of serious misconduct.
Other uses of the standards
In addition to the above, schools in England can use the Teachers' Standards as a valuable resource to guide various aspects of their operations, including recruitment and maintaining a positive school culture.
Here are some other ways that schools can use the Teachers' Standards:
1. Teacher recruitment. Schools can use the Teachers' Standards as a basis for defining the criteria for hiring new teachers. They can ensure that candidates meet the standards' expectations for professional competence and conduct.
2. New teacher induction. During teacher induction, schools can introduce new staff to the Teachers' Standards and explain how they align with the school's values and expectations.
3. Coaching and mentoring. In addition to supporting professional development such as lesson observations, as I say above, the standards can be used to help develop mentorship programmes where experienced teachers guide newer colleagues in aligning their practice with the standards.
4. Behaviour management. Schools can incorporate the standards' principles into behaviour management strategies to create a positive and respectful school environment. They can use the standards to address ethical conduct and professional behaviour among staff.
5. School improvement plans. Schools can use data related to teachers' performance against the standards to inform school improvement plans. They can also develop strategies that address specific areas of improvement identified through alignment with the standards.
6. School culture and values. School leaders can emphasise how the Teachers' Standards align with the school's values and contribute to a positive and productive school culture. They can communicate to teachers how their performance and professional development are connected to the standards. They can also involve teachers in discussions about the standards and their role in meeting them.
By integrating the Teachers' Standards into various aspects of school operations, schools can ensure a consistent focus on high-quality teaching practices, professional growth, and maintaining a positive and student-centred educational environment.
If you’re concerned about keeping up to date with the latest education policy, practice and research, consider a membership with The National College. Not only does it provide access to thousands of professional development resources for all staff, but also enables leaders to create training programmes precisely tailored to individual and collective needs, to help ensure compliance and drive up standards.