I know some incredibly intelligent individuals who really struggle to teach concepts in the classroom. They have more subject knowledge than I could comprehend, but their students don’t succeed. Why? Because these teachers aren’t able to encode their knowledge in a way that makes it easy for students to access. It’s as simple as that.

Instead of focusing on the depth and breadth of subject knowledge, we need to think more in terms of teachers knowing what is expected in a subject. For example, I’m a specialist in English language and linguistics. Does that mean I can’t teach literature? I am certainly not as knowledgeable as some when it comes to literature, but I know what is expected of my students and I know enough (and then some) to help them on their way to success.

If you have studied a subject to A level yourself; if you know what’s on the curriculum and have the pedagogical knowledge needed to help students make progress, surely that makes you qualified to teach that subject at least to GCSE. After all, one of the best maths teachers I know was once a PE teacher and some of the most promising English trainees I’ve worked with come from psychology backgrounds.

Ultimately, with the numbers of applications for teacher training on the decline, we should perhaps be more open to the idea that teachers’ subject knowledge is not the be all and end all. When it comes to being a fantastic teacher, it seems that there are other factors that matter more.


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