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Asking about teacher qualifications

(44 Posts)
quadrullioon Tue 22-Oct-19 22:29:23

DD is applying to sixth forms at the moment, and as she's looking at some subjects where staff recruitment is an issue (maths, physics, computer science) I'd really like to ask schools whether their teachers have degrees in the subjects they're teaching or not. One of the schools has teacher qualifications on their website, but the others don't. Are they obliged to tell you if you ask? (It won't necessarily put us off a school, as I know they might still teach the subject well, but it's something to take into consideration along with everything else).

OP’s posts: |
TheFallenMadonna Tue 22-Oct-19 22:35:23

I've no idea if they are obliged to tell you. I suspect not. I would tell you, if you asked. At my last school, I had a few parents at Open Evenings ask how many PhDs there were in my department, which summed up the main parent body of the school really...

noblegiraffe Tue 22-Oct-19 22:52:53

You’d be better looking at results than qualifications I think.

I don’t remember ever being asked this at open evening and it would be quite awkward because I honestly don’t know whether my colleagues have maths degrees.

BubblesBuddy Wed 23-Oct-19 08:12:08

Teaching A level maths or FM without a maths degree would be a real stretch for anyone. Results can be average if DC are not great at these subjects!

Somehow you need to judge qualifications, quality of teaching and quality of cohort to achieve well in the subject. Usually schools have local reputations so ask around in the area too.

PhDs are fairly rare in schools. Even Grammars. There is just no need to have studied this long for school teaching.

sd249 Wed 23-Oct-19 08:58:23

I would look at the results of the school rather than the qualifications of the teachers.

Ask schools for their ALPS Score (5 is average, 1 is the best) and their grade percentages and compare them to the national averages.

Usually despite teacher shortages if it is a school they will have their best teachers teaching A Levels - those who aren't specialists in Maths/Physics etc will likely just be teaching lower down the school.

And honestly - degree doesn't necessarily mean great teacher. I can think of many teachers I have met who are unbelievably smart - got 1st class degrees etc however they cannot explain how to do it to a student who struggles to understand so a degree isn't everything.

MsJaneAusten Wed 23-Oct-19 09:04:25

Well you could ask, but the Information would only be relevant now. By next year, and even more likely when she’s in year 13, staffing might have changed. It’s a rare school that would have exactly the same staff teaching a-levels from one year to the next (staff turnover, maternity leave, timetable cycles, etc)

senua Wed 23-Oct-19 09:06:32

It seems a bit pointless because the staff could have changed by the time DD gets there.

I think that you have to judge the overall quality of the school/departments and the sort of students that they attract.

TheFallenMadonna Wed 23-Oct-19 09:58:01

PhDs in sciences are fairly common. Even in comprehensives shock. Obviously they are unnecessary.

cauliflowersqueeze Wed 23-Oct-19 12:20:56

No they are not obliged to tell you.

Many of the best teachers don’t have fabulous qualifications. And many of the worst, do.

Look at the results, or more importantly the value added. Judge on that.

Malbecfan Thu 24-Oct-19 18:02:42

One of my colleagues is a very experienced Maths teacher. He teaches Maths, FM and STEP. His degree is not in Maths, it's actually in Engineering which uses lots of applied maths.
Is it a problem to me? No.
Is he a good teacher? Yes.
Both my DDs had him teach them FM and both did brilliantly.

A PhD does not make you a good teacher. A good teacher has to be able to explain things to kids who may struggle. A PhD does NOT make someone a better teacher, it means that they have spent several years researching. DH has one; I find his explanations baffling, which is why he isn't a teacher.

Kids occasionally ask me about my degree. Mostly it's 6th formers who are interested in the content. But as @cauliflowersqueeze writes, it really is nothing to do with parents. Results and professional behaviour are far more important.

SansaSnark Thu 24-Oct-19 19:34:12

I'm pretty sure they're not obliged to tell you, and like a PP said, people may not know the exact degrees others in their department have- they will probably know if someone is teaching out of specialism, but they may not know the exact degree someone has done e.g. I know a few physics teachers with joint honours degrees and one with a degree in astrophysics.

I agree that a) staffing may change by next year anyway and b) you are better off looking at results to see if a subject is well taught.

If the school is offering the A-level, they feel they are able to staff it- if you trust the school enough to send your DD there, surely you should trust their staffing decisions?

Michaelbaubles Thu 24-Oct-19 19:37:10

It’s really not all that important. I’ve never taken a single class in either of the subjects I teach now but I’m a good teacher of them and my degree gave me all the transferable skills I needed to be able to grapple with the subject content comfortably. And my 15 years of teaching experience has provided everything else I need.

Rosieposy4 Sun 27-Oct-19 21:07:31

Agree with above, qualifications no guarantee of good teaching. At the comp I teach in there are 7/16 science teachers with PhDs, including myself. It is only in the last 5 years or so ( been teaching 10) that I consider myself to have become a “good teacher” my results were fine before that but it is something that requires a lot of craft.

PurpleDaisies Sun 27-Oct-19 21:10:28

Teaching A level maths or FM without a maths degree would be a real stretch for anyone. Results can be average if DC are not great at these subjects!

Not necessarily. There are other degrees that give you enough maths ability-physics is one. It’s very, very hard to recruit for some subjects. Results matter more than exactly what’s on their degree certificate.

tabbiemoo Sun 27-Oct-19 21:22:00

I know some very talented teachers without degrees in their subject although their degrees are certainly related. I also know someone who has a PhD in Maths who is not a good teacher - they are extremely bright but struggle with imparting their knowledge at the right level and classroom management is a disaster despite support (they were eventually asked to leave and I understand have left their next job too).

I would think most teachers wouldn’t mind being asked what degree they studied but I wouldn’t judge too harshly unless they have no experience related to their subject (eg a history graduate straight from uni teaching physics A Level - that I might have a problem with!)

seaweedandmarchingbands Sun 27-Oct-19 21:44:18

I believe telling you teachers’ personal info would breach GDPR anyway.

Pandainmyporridge Mon 28-Oct-19 22:51:20

I think you are merging being qualified to teach a certain subject, and having a degree in that subject - they are not the same.
What I think you want to know is if they are properly qualified to teach Maths (etc) rather than do they have a degree in Maths - as pp have said, you can teach maths with an engineering degree.

StanleySteamer Mon 28-Oct-19 23:17:25

Love this thread!
Suppose your DC wants to do a language, would it bother you if their teacher was a foreign national or not? Would you think that would make them a better teacher?
Often the best teachers are ones who have NOT done PhDs. They are closer to the childrens' view of the subject and a rarified attitude to the subject helps not one bit.
Agree absolutely with PPs, the schools' results, especially value added, should tell you what you need to know. If they are open about it you can trust them, if they try to fob you off, walk away.

PurpleDaisies Mon 28-Oct-19 23:25:07

Often the best teachers are ones who have NOT done PhDs. They are closer to the childrens' view of the subject and a rarified attitude to the subject helps not one bit.

Oh bugger off with this crap. Just because someone is academically qualified and gifted doesn’t mean they won’t be a good teacher. I absolutely hate this assumption. It does our profession no favours at all.

StanleySteamer Tue 29-Oct-19 12:58:46

@PurpleDaisies, I was that soldier for 34 years. It is NOT crap. Some Teachers with PhDs are brilliant others are not, Some teachers with degrees and PGCEs are brilliant and some are not, some even with Cert Eds were brilliant, I worked alongside one for years and she was fantastic and the kids loved her. Teachers come in many forms, but I covered enough science lessons, with my MFL degree (but A-levels in sciences and maths). I often had to explain concepts to the class and they would say "Wish you taught us science sir, our teacher can't explain it simply enough."
So this is not an "Assumption" I know what I am talking about. It just happens to be true. "Often" or "sometimes" is a pesonal judgment. We had only a few PhDs teaching, they were mostly OK as far as I knew, my comment was really aimed at teachers in general whose knowledge of the subject is so deep that they cannot simplfy it for the average child.
The last thing I would want to do is to "do our profession no favours at all" There are enough idiots, politicians and hacks doing this for us. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough.

CripsSandwiches Tue 29-Oct-19 13:57:33

I think it's a very reasonable question to ask. I've been in schools where the teachers were teaching at the limit of their subject knowledge which was fine for the most part in terms of getting through exams but it meant they were unable to support brighter students who were interested in learning in more depth or who needed to do STEP/MAT/PAT etc.

CripsSandwiches Tue 29-Oct-19 14:00:16

It's very true that teaching is not all about subject knowledge and a PhD doesn't guarantee you'll actually be good at imparting the knowledge you have but for a bright student and particularly at A-level it's a massive help to have teachers with further qualifications in addition to a talent for teaching (at the very least a degree in the subject their actually teaching). At A-level other teaching skills (e.g. behaviour management - engaging unmotivated students etc) becomes less important and in depth subject knowledge much more important.

Drabarni Tue 29-Oct-19 14:05:53

You can ask but they don't have to tell you.
Be careful where you apply to, I'd go by word of mouth tbh.
I'm qualified in Post Compulsory Education, so you would imagine post school. However, when I took my PgCE education was only compulsory up until 16.
I am able to teach 6th form without a Secondary PgCE.
That sounds reasonable until you look at what subjects I would be expected to teach had I continued.

In addition, as qualified for PC I wasn't expected to have GCSE's or A level as they weren't applicable. I left school with nothing and too a level 2 in English and Maths in order to teach.

I was forced to teach (not cover) Further Maths when I don't even have a GCSE in the subject. I left in the end as I didn't want somebody like me teaching my kids (they were school aged at the time). My peers are still there as they didn't feel the same as me.
It's not the teachers fault, it's the jobs that are there as more FE colleges close and schools have 6th forms.

OnceFreshFish Tue 29-Oct-19 14:06:37


What you're saying is crap. You're generalising from your experience assuming it's universal. Having an in depth subject knowledge doesn't have any bearing on your ability to simplify subjects to an appropriate level for the students (if that were true no teacher could teach both A-level and Y7). Teaching is a skill which is separate from actually being good at the subject. Having a PhD doesn't mean you won't be good at teaching it does mean you know your subject very well which is incredibly important for bright students wanting to go to top universities.

When I was teaching there were a number of teachers (in maths and physics) who were amazing teachers (and this was a very difficult school) but would openly admit to being out of their depth with some classes. One in particular hadn't done a maths degree and would become confused with basic questions about graph transformations during a GCSE class. Another - a physics teacher was unable to answer questions if they were off syllabus. It was frustrating for the students.

Both these teachers were amazing when teaching within their expertise but due to lack of suitably qualified teachers were often forced to teach outside of it. There is no way either could have helped a student with an application to a top university or helped them prepare for entrance exams. Yet the grammar school and independent schools nearby all had that help readily available.

OnceFreshFish Tue 29-Oct-19 14:08:27

I would add that I was massively inspired as a child by a teacher who had a PhD as he was able to discuss all kinds of interesting topics with me and would often drop in interesting tangential topics in class. HE had no problem explaining the basics but the extras actually brought the subject alive.

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