Call for ‘research literacy’ to be criteria for QTS and leadership


The Teachers’ Standards in England should be revised to make research literacy an explicit requirement for gaining qualified teacher status (QTS) and progressing to leadership roles, a new report has recommended.

Ofsted should also revise its inspection framework for both initial teacher education and schools and colleges to ensure teacher engaging in research becomes “one of the hallmarks of outstanding practice”.

The recommendations come after an 18-month investigation into the use of research in the teaching profession, carried out jointly by the RSA and the British Educational Research Association (BERA).

The final report – Research and the Teaching Profession: Building the Capacity for a Self-Improving Education System – says that there is currently “no coherent strategy” for the development of teachers’ professional capabilities once they enter the classroom.

It adds that while there are “pockets of excellent practice” to be found across the UK, professional development is “fragmented, occasional and insufficiently informed by research”.

The authors warn that the target culture and short-term focus on exam results is undermining attempts to create a research-engaged workforce.

The report states: “The pressures created by a target and results-oriented culture, so prevalent in schools now, was found in some cases to stifle creativity – with research being seen as some kind of ‘add-on’ or luxury.”

The report makes individual recommendations for each of the home nations, centred around CPD arrangements, inspection, teacher training, practitioner engagement, and teaching standards.

It also urges teachers across the UK to be given the support to become “research literate”, including “frequent opportunities to read up on the latest findings”.

It says pupils should be entitled to “lessons which are informed by the best evidence”.

In England, the report recommends that “research literacy” should be an explicit criterion for gaining QTS in England as well as middle leadership or senior leadership roles. 

It recommends similar approaches for the Teacher Competency Framework in Northern Ireland and the Teachers’ Standards in Wales.

England’s current review of headteacher standards should also “prioritise both the development of research literate school leaders, and the leadership of a research-rich culture in all schools and colleges”, it adds.

It calls for a National Network of Research Leaders in Education in each country as well as changes to teacher training and school inspections to emphasise the importance of professionals engaging with research findings. 

The report recommends revising inspection frameworks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to include a more specific focus on research engagement.

On Ofsted, it states: “Ofsted needs to revise the inspection framework for initial teacher education, and for schools and colleges, such that enabling teachers – and future teachers – to engage with research and enquiry becomes one of the hallmarks of ‘outstanding’ practice.

“As an initial step, Ofsted should undertake a thematic review to identify and disseminate best practice in the use of research and enquiry to promote school and college improvement and teachers’ professional development.”

In Wales, the report warns that research capacity and its contribution to teacher education is weak, while in Northern Ireland it says the frameworks are in place to support research but that in practice “it receives little emphasis in schools”.

It also says that England, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the example of Scotland, where the recommendations of the Donaldson Review have led to a “more systematic approach to helping teachers use the latest research”.

However, Scotland is warned that there is currently a gap between the policy framework encouraging a research-informed profession and practice on the ground, in particular in secondary schools. The report urges the Scottish government to do more to engage teachers in implementing the Donaldson Review’s recommendations.

Professor John Furlong, of the University of Oxford, who chaired the inquiry, said: “Teachers and students thrive in the kind of settings that we describe as research-rich, and research-rich schools and colleges are those that are likely to have the greatest capacity for self-evaluation and self-improvement.”

Joe Hallgarten, director of education at the RSA, added: “Research literacy, which does not require all teachers to be researchers, matters because it will give the teaching profession the capacity to create a genuinely self-improving system, and the clout to force governments and their regulators to reduce their intervention roles.”


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