Today's post follows on from a blog written by Tom Bennett on the importance of knowledge in teaching, and from a subsequent Twitter discussion about the nature of subject training in schools. Bennett suggests that subject knowledge has been neglected and, as such, schools need to put greater emphasis on teachers' knowledge as a means of assessing their ability to teach effectively. He goes on to suggest that teachers might be asked to sit the exams they are set to teach before the students as a measure of their knowledge. Now in a subject as broad as history, "knowing everything" would be impossible, indeed futile. However I do agree that teachers need to have developed their subject knowledge in order to be effective, interested and motivated teachers. Even better, it's not just me for a change. The Sutton Trust's recent report on what makes good teaching noted that teachers' content knowledge was crucial to "understand[ing] how students think about a subject and [in] identify[ing] common misconceptions." In other words, we cannot be effective teachers unless we have a really good grasp of what we are trying to teach. This is something that the Cambridge PGCE (and others) have long since recognised. However with cuts to PGCE numbers and similar cutbacks in teacher training budgets, it seems unlikely that even the most rudimentary subject knowledge training needs will be met for students who get thrown into schools with barely enough resources to train their own staff. The problem for established staff is even worse, with resources for subject specific training being limited in the best cases and practically non-existent in the worst.
Well it seems Mr Hunt is in the firing line on Twitter once again for an article posted on the Sunday Times suggesting that, if Labour does manage to solve their infighting and get elected, as education secretary, he will bring in a kind of teaching MOT. Now this is not an entirely fresh piece of news. Indeed, as I rolled my eyes at the outcry and started thinking about my blog, I stumbled across this piece I wrote in January on the exact same theme! Now, to save you from my usual blog length, I will not repeat anything I have already said, but I do want to reiterate my call to get beyond the rhetoric around licensing teachers and consider the potential for positive impact.