Last reviewed 6 March 2020

Former Head, Michael Evans, considers Teachers’ Standards and suggests how they can be used to improve quality in the profession.

What do we expect of teachers?

At one time, teachers were broadly made up of two groups: those who had a vocation to teach and those who drifted into teaching because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. Those with a vocation generally taught by instinct and their results were often outstanding. The drifters, on the other hand, mainly learnt on the job and while some came to be excellent teachers, others descended into disillusionment and became the bane of any staff room.

Teaching is a demanding profession and there is no longer any room for drifters. Society has high expectations for teachers and the Department for Education (DfE) is quite clear about Teachers’ Standards and what is required.

Do Teachers’ Standards apply to all teachers?

Teachers’ Standards provide a baseline of expectations for the professional practice and conduct of all teachers in England and define the minimum level of practice to be expected.

How can a teacher meet these standards?

According to the DfE there are two target areas.

  1. What a teacher must do with respect to teaching.

  2. What a teacher is expected to demonstrate with respect to personal and professional conduct.

With respect to teaching, eight areas are identified.

Teachers should:

  • have high expectations, with goals being set that are challenging to pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions

  • promote good progress and outcomes, encouraging pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their work and study

  • demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge, fostering and maintaining pupils’ interest and addressing misunderstandings

  • plan and teach well-structured lessons, imparting knowledge and developing understanding through effective use of lesson time to promote a love of learning

  • respond to pupils’ strengths and needs, knowing when and how to differentiate appropriately by using approaches that enable pupils to be taught effectively

  • make accurate and productive use of assessment, including statutory assessment, and to give pupils regular feedback, both orally and through accurate marking

  • effectively manage behaviour to ensure a safe learning environment, maintaining good relationships with pupils, while exercising appropriate authority and acting decisively when necessary

  • fulfil wider professional responsibilities, by making a positive contribution to the wider life and ethos of the school, developing effective professional relationships with colleagues, deploying support staff effectively, making use of appropriate professional development and communicating effectively with parents with regard to pupils’ achievements and wellbeing.

With respect to personal and professional conduct, these should be of the highest standards that should be demonstrated both within and outside the school.

  • Pupils should be treated with dignity. Relationships should show mutual respect, but boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position should be observed at all times.

  • Due regard should be given to the welfare and safeguarding of pupils in accordance with statutory provisions.

  • Personal beliefs should not be expressed in ways that exploit the vulnerability of pupils or might lead them to break the law.

  • Fundamental British values should be upheld, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for the rights of others and those who have different faiths and beliefs.

  • There must be a proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices in the school where they teach. This will involve high standards of attendance and punctuality.

  • Teachers should always act within the statutory frameworks which set out their professional duties and responsibilities.

How should Teachers’ Standards be used?

  • Teachers’ Standards can be used by those involved in the training and induction of new teachers to ensure the quality of new entrants to the profession. Initial teacher training providers must use them to assess whether trainees can be recommended for qualified teacher status. Schools must later use them to assess the extent to which newly qualified teachers can demonstrate their competence following the completion of their induction period.

  • Practising teachers can use Teachers’ Standards to support their own professional development and growth. It has been shown that teachers can benefit from observing colleagues in the classroom and that teachers learn best from other professionals. Observing and being observed, having opportunities to plan, prepare, reflect and teach with other teachers can help to improve the quality of teaching. Feedback from colleagues has been shown to be most valuable.

  • Headteachers and school governors can use Teachers’ Standards to improve standards of teaching in their schools by assessing performance against sets of minimum expectations. In addition to being used to assess the performance of individual teachers, they can be used to assess the need for appropriate professional development in the school.

  • Teachers’ Standards are a useful guide when a teacher is applying for access to the upper pay range. They enable an assessment to be made as to whether the individual is highly competent in all appropriate areas and whether achievements and contributions to the setting are substantial and sustained.

  • When Ofsted inspectors assess the quality of teaching in a school, they will consider the extent to which the Teachers’ Standards are being met.

  • In the event of a teacher being accused of misconduct, reference to Teachers’ Standards will give an indication of whether or not there is a case to answer.

The need for continual improvement

“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.” Those were the words of Professor Dylan Wiliam.

It is not presumptuous to say that teaching is the most important profession for our nation’s future. The Teachers’ Standards set out a minimum of what teachers should be doing, but underpinning these standards are clear expectations about continuing professional development.

Effective professional development for teachers is a core part in securing effective teaching. It can be a key driver in staff development, recruitment, retention, wellbeing and school improvement, but not all professional development is equally effective.

There should always be a clear purpose and a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes. This should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise. Development should include collaboration and expert challenge and should be sustained over time, with opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation.

Finally, professional development requires effective leadership and should be an expectation for all staff. There should be clarity as to how it will improve pupil outcomes and it must complement a clear ambitious curriculum with visions for pupil success. There must be an assurance that sufficient time and resources are made available and that subject, phase and individual development plans are coherent and supported.


  • Teaching is a demanding profession, said to be the most important profession in our nation’s future.

  • Teachers Standards define the minimum level of practice expected of teachers in England.

  • The DfE has identified two important target areas in order to meet the high standards that are required. These are issues associated with classroom teaching and issues related to personal and professional conduct.

  • Underpinning Teachers’ Standards is the important expectation for continual professional development.