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Education and outreach

Reforming teacher training: IOP Head of Education, Charles Tracy, shares expertise with Gatsby Education

13 October 2021

As part of a publication launched by Gatsby Education, IOP’s Head of Education, Charles Tracy, has shared his thoughts on developing subject knowledge for teaching during initial teacher training.


The publication, Reforming Teacher Training: Expert Perspectives (PDF, 544KB), is a collection of essays, commissioned by the Gatsby Foundation to inform the current debate in England about the future of initial teacher training (ITT) in England.

Gatsby has worked with government and other partners over the last 20 years to improve the quality and quantity of specialist teachers, and has particularly focused on physics teachers.

With a continued concern over the supply of subject specialist teachers not meeting the needs of the country, Gatsby wanted to explore how the government’s ITT Market Review report, published in July 2021, would affect the situation.

They selected nine education experts from a range of institutions and backgrounds, with an interest and expertise in ITT, to write an essay covering their personal thoughts on some aspects of teacher training, and to reflect on the new proposals, which controversially included the suggestion that every provider should go through a re-accreditation process.

Combined, the contributions reveal how teacher training in England is both rich and complex, with a plethora of routes and providers.

With a shortage of physics teachers in schools and the number of new teachers still falling short of what is needed to remediate that shortage, teacher recruitment and training is an important issue for the IOP.

In his essay about developing subject knowledge for teaching, Charles brings the IOP’s experience and expertise in the field to bear. He describes the different types of subject knowledge required for teaching, and makes the case for putting subject expertise at the heart of any new reforms, with emphasis on the importance of subject-specific mentoring.

He also proposes that trainees and new teachers are allowed to focus on their home subject during their early career to prevent them being overloaded with new material to learn and prepare to teach.

The new Gatsby publication comes just months after the launch of the IOP-led Subjects Matter (PDF, 3.3MB) report.

The Subjects Matter working group was a collaboration of over 50 educational organisations, subject-specific societies and individual specialists that were brought together by the IOP, and the report described how a national system of subject-specific CPD for all teachers could help to increase the quality of teaching in schools and improve educational outcomes for all students.

Gatsby recommends that the uncertainty around how to shape the future of ITT in England is reason to slow down, and assess in detail the options and their implications, before identifying the long-term solution.