Ask the Experts

We asked our Subject Experts one question. “How can we ensure we give enough of our time to supporting teacher development?” Here is what they told us;

Kit Rackley – Secondary Geography

“Integrating the time into your existing plans and responsibilities is one trick I use. For example, once a week in form time it was quiet reading. Yes, it could have been a chance for me to catch up on emails or start preparing for Period 1, but I found that it was the perfect opportunities for me to pick up a book myself, whether it be something CPD focused, or some fiction/non-fiction that was Geography related. It had the added benefit that if the kids saw me reading when they themselves should be, they were more likely to get on and bury their heads in their book!”

Matteo Sciberras – Primary Maths

“Recent research from Fletcher-Wood and Zuccollo (2020) suggests that teacher professional development might be the most powerful way that teachers can improve students’ outcomes. However, I’m sure we’ve all experienced teacher development initiatives, including subject-specific ones, that have fizzled out, or failed to have the desired impact. As such, whether we are working with experienced teachers or novice teachers, prioritising teacher development can be a challenge. 

As with any subject, teacher development in primary maths ought to have a clear purpose and a coherent strategy for success over an extended period. As much as we all love to have a few ‘quick wins’ under our sleeves (perhaps in the form of maths challenges or maths games), they probably won’t lead to lasting teacher improvement over time.  

All primary school teachers (from trainee teachers all the way up to the headteacher) must see themselves as ‘maths teachers’. Afterall, we teach the subject every day! We are as much ‘maths teachers’ as our secondary colleagues who are teaching quadratic equations to KS4. By viewing all primary school teachers as maths teachers, and understanding the power and responsibility that we have to shape maths outcomes beyond KS2, hopefully we can understand that all primary teachers, especially those starting out in the profession, deserve enough time to focus on clear, long-lasting teacher development.” 

Lynn Welsh – Secondary Art and Design

“Supporting teacher development, whether that is ITT’s, ECT’s or even long standing and experienced staff is incredibly important, it needs time, an understanding of issues, evidenced based analysis, manageable, chunked action steps and a commitment to deliberate practice and review. If done correctly, it is time saving in the long run, promotes a sense of achievement and impacts considerably on teacher well-being.

Teaching, especially in the early days can be all consuming and we must not make assumptions about our colleagues knowledge about teaching or about art and design. Both are huge areas and we need to be open and honest about the things we are struggling with or don’t know enough about. This is one of the great beauties about working with colleagues who are creative as we gain so much from each other and are constantly on a voyage of discovery and learning.

I have found that physically showing colleagues how to do something, practising it together, observing it in context and then reviewing this, develops and then consolidates knowledge and is a positive process. It is important to be open, to acknowledge success, to learn from each other and be transparent. Teacher development does not then become an add on or something to be feared but something that happens more fluidly and is embedded into the ethos of the department or school.”

Kirsty Wilcockson – Secondary Music

“I think this centres around mentors and leaders modelling this by continually developing themselves. I think it is important for mentors to share research and articles with their trainees but also sharing issues that they have experienced in their teaching practice and how they overcame them.”

Helen Snelson – Secondary History

“Ah, this is a tricky question. A couple of thoughts… It needs a culture of CPD (continuing professional development) to exist and a determination to make the time. Line managers at all levels need to avoid setting tasks that fill precious non-contact time with admin. Instead they need to really value teacher CPD. The most effective examples I have seen put the focus on the subject specific and the subject leader. SLs are trusted to connect to subject associations and to lead a team of colleagues to identify what CPD is needed to improve the teaching of the subject. Yes, there might be a whole school focus, but the best CPD to achieve that focus is subject driven. Teacher development also needs imagination and a focus on making the learning really engaging. We would do this for our pupils, so why not make sure teacher CPD is really engaging and enriching? The best examples I have seen of this, consult with teachers about what they would like to learn and then imaginatively make it happen. For example, by enabling colleagues to work with an academic in their subject, or by setting up a reading group, or by setting up a small piece of classroom-based research so that practical theorising can happen. Time is more likely to be given to something when it is valued and when it is really enjoyable.”

Dr Linda Whitworth – Primary Religious Education

“Religious Education or Religion and Worldviews, as the subject is increasingly called, is part of the Basic Curriculum and should be accessible to all pupils unless withdrawn from the subject. Therefore all teachers should know how to teach it and where it fits into the  whole curriculum, even if it is taught by other staff members in the school.

Here are 3 suggestions of teacher development for 3 different stages:

Beginner teacher/ Early career teacher

All beginner teachers should have training in teaching RE/ RW. The Commission on Religious Education recommends 12 hours training (CORE, 2018) although research by NATRE indicates that many beginner teachers do not get adequate time or training on their Initial Teacher Education courses (NATRE, 2022). If your ITT trainees and ECTs have not had sufficient training, I recommend they watch the NASBTT teacher preparation materials on line and in addition take a series of 3 courses, free and studied in their own time, provided by RE Online. These are designed to give training to beginner teachers or supplement  their ITT provision.

The three courses are:

1: Introduction to Religion and worldviews

2: Teaching and Learning for Primary Beginning Teachers

3: Subject knowledge for Primary Beginning Teachers 

Accessible from For ITT Providers – RE:ONLINE ( These can form a base for discussion if there are a group of trainees together.

It is important that the trainees learn from the subject lead about the local Agreed Syllabus or faith syllabus which the school uses and they are provided with opportunities to observe good RE being taught in the school. As soon as they start planning for RE, trainees should be introduced to the school’s RE resources, including artefacts. It is helpful to set aside 2 separate opportunities (possibly after school) so the trainee can ask questions of the subject lead or class teacher after they have started to understand what is required. They should be supported in planning , teaching and assessment, so arrange observations of them and time for feedback. Many trainees feel nervous of teaching RE because they fear not knowing enough or causing offence.  Both of these can be answered through good modelling, guided planning for the appropriate age group, support for subject knowledge and opportunities to consider the backgrounds of their classes to help them navigate through religious sensitivities. Time at this stage can help new teachers enormously, so it is never wasted, even if it is hard to find.

Below I have set out ideas for different stages of teacher development in Primary RE/RW. It can be challenging to find time for CPD so here are some courses which teachers can study in their own time gradually through the year.

Class teacher/ year leader

RE Online provides courses for teachers who have moved beyond the early stages of teaching.

There are 2 levels:

Religion and Worldviews: Introduction to the Curriculum

Introduction to Subject Knowledge

Introduction to Research

And at the deeper level:

Digging Deeper: Religion and Worldviews

Digging Deeper: Curriculum

These are all free, on-line and can be completed whenever the teacher wants to study.

Working with others:

Find out about your local NATRE RE group RE in your Region ( . These groups meet, usually after school, to talk together about teaching, planning and resources. They are an excellent and friendly way to build a support network, especially if you have questions about a particular Agreed Syllabus or want to work together on developing  teaching materials. Ninety minutes once a term can really help to feel supported. There are around 300 local groups in the UK so it is well worth finding out who can help you locally. This is a good time investment for the school in the long term.

There are also regional and national events organised by NATRE such as ‘Strictly RE’ which takes place on line annually for a weekend in January.

You can, as an individual or as a school, join NATRE and have access to their on-line materials and receive their termly publication ‘RE Today’, which is full of lesson ideas and information about different religions and worldviews from teachers and members of faith and non-faith groups. Leave a copy in the staff room so it can be referred to easily.

RE co-ordinator

If you are new to a co-ordinator role you may find the information above helpful to get you started. It can be daunting to lead RE because it has a lot of subject knowledge attached, so I recommend working on one religion or worldview at a time and focus on what your syllabus requires. There is a lot available online to help with the role, so set yourself a regular 30 or 60 minutes to think about your own development and read what is available. You can then recommend articles to others.

RE Online has a specific area for Leadership Leadership – RE:ONLINE (  You can join monthly podcasts, read articles and find practical support on issues like curriculum or assessment. There is also a library of previous articles to browse for ideas.

Organise with your SMT so you have time to observe RE in school and debrief teachers. This will help you to support everyone teaching RE and helps you with updates and inspections. Meet with ITE trainees and ECTs to develop their understanding and organise a staff training session on an aspect of the RE curriculum which you think should be developed.

And finally if you get a chance, Culham St. Gabriel Trust, which runs RE Online, runs a funded Leadership Scholarship programme. Details can be found at Leadership Scholarship Programme – Culham St Gabriel’s (”

Kate Percival – Primary Languages

“We all agree how important ongoing teacher development is. Our role never stands still and it is crucial we commit to refining our practice throughout our career. However, with the role becoming ever more demanding, the age-old question of where to find the time to read the book and attend the meetings remains. As mentors, you might find your trainees are allowed more time than more experienced colleagues to attend teacher development opportunities so encourage them to think carefully which type of CPD would benefit them and advise them to make the most of it while they can!

The beauty of the current climate means so much more CPD can be accessed online than ever before. In terms of primary languages, your school may have membership to a network such as Primary Languages Network who run a CPD journey throughout the year which is included in their premium membership.

From French and Spanish upskilling, to Effective Coordination, Whole Staff CPD and half-termly networking events, a wealth of support and teacher development can be accessed at a click of a mouse.

The ALL (Association for Language Learning) also offer national and local networking sessions both online and in person including an annual languages conference called ‘Language World’.

The beauty of face-to-face events is that there is usually a ‘buzz’ about the event with many like minded people eager to connect and share ideas so you will probably leave feeling inspired and invigorated which is as much a reason as any to have an event booked in your calendar.

If your trainee’s schedule doesn’t afford them time to attend too many events, there are some great websites and reports written specifically for languages which they can catch up on when time allows.  Research into Primary Languages (RiPL) is a fantastic portal for keeping abreast of the latest developments in language learning at primary level. There are often opportunities to take part in research-based projects yourself as well. RiPL also issue a ‘White Paper’ every so often which is a helpful summary of policy and other developments. As is the ‘Languages Trends’ survey run by the British Council. A third body of research to bear in mind is OASIS (Open Accessible Summaries In Language Studies). With its own search function, it does exactly as it says on the tin: summarises studies into a single page so that you can access the main points without having to spend the time reading and unpicking the full version.

When it comes to developing a trainee’s own linguistic knowledge as a ‘non-specialist’, it is very dependent on their individual experience. There are apps such as Duolingo  which offer free access to be able to self-study the basics of the language you are teaching. Again, your scheme may have resources such as PLN’s Upskilling sessions in French and Spanish and a free app which follows the content of the scheme of work. However, if we’re thinking of working smarter, not necessarily harder, the ultimate in non-specialist teacher upskilling has to be PLN’s Video2Teach scheme of work which uses native speaker videos for the class teacher to use each lesson. Practitioners are supported by the native speaker in terms of vocabulary, phrases and pronunciation whilst at the same time having the ownership of running the lesson at the appropriate pace for their class.  A sample of these video lessons can be accessed via the NASBTT ITT dashboard.

Firstly, there is a modelled and fully resourced scheme of work to support trainees in teaching up to twelve lessons in either French of Spanish. Lesson one allows the trainee to use a native speaker video from PLN’s Video2Teach Autumn term scheme of work to teach the lesson. Lesson one follow-up allows them to repeat some of the format of lesson one but also to adapt and enhance the lesson as they wish.  This pattern repeats for lessons two to six creating a full term’s unit of work. From the Spring term onwards, trainees are able to use PLN’s Click2Teach scheme of work where the lessons are PowerPoint based but still with embedded clips and audio support.

In other areas of the dashboard, you can find lessons suitable for KS1 and other resources such as songs and games.  All planning and assessment documents and some key links to explore the pedagogy of teaching primary languages are provided for you as well.”

Sara Davidson – Secondary Languages

“This is a tricky one as time is always the most elusive of resources in teaching! We need to use the time we have set aside for our mentoring and teacher development well. The mentor meeting needs to be chaired efficiently so that the mentee remains focused and doesn’t go off on tangents but they also need to know which other times they can come for further support. If the mentor has coaching skills they can engage in regular coaching conversations throughout the week. If a culture of teacher improvement is created in the language department in general, then teacher development will become a natural part of the week: ‘bitesize’ professional development sessions, ‘Teach-Meet’ style, can really help, perhaps once a week a breaktimes there can be a sharing of teaching and learning ideas. Focused observations where the trainee is given a specific technique or strategy to find out more about, reflect on and report back on can be very effective too.”

If you have any questions you would like to ask our experts, then please contact us.

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