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Using the Teachers’ Standards

‘Those involved in training and inducting new teachers must use the Teachers’ Standards to ensure quality of new entrants to the profession.’

Department for Education


Topics on this page:

  • What are the Teachers’ standards?
  • How to use the Teachers’ standards
  • Challenges for Geography educators
  • Moderating geography assessment judgements
  • Finding evidence for ITE judgments about Standards
  • Using the Teachers’ Standards to make assessments and reports of progress


What are the Teachers’ Standards?

The current Teachers’ Standards were introduced from September 2012. These Standards define ‘the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded QTS’.

They apply not only to ITE but also to induction and beyond. (It should be noted that the Standards are continually being updated with minor amendments to language etc. and you should always be careful that you are using the most recent copy from the DfE website.) In Wales, refer to the Professional standards for teaching and leadership.


How to use the Teachers’ Standards

Assessment specifically against the Teachers’ Standards should be reserved for end-of-course assessment to meet the requirements for the award of Qualified Teacher Status. The Teachers’ Standards are used to form a holistic judgement of a teacher’s capacity to teach.

This does not prevent you referencing or referring to the Teachers’ Standards at key assessment points during the course to help trainees understand their progress. Use them to focus observations of teaching and professional practice. They should guide you as to what a teacher should strive to achieve and help you to identify goals and targets for them.

The guidance given by the DfE is that:

‘The standards need to be applied as appropriate to the role and context within which a trainee or teacher is practising. Providers of initial teacher training (ITT) should assess trainees against the standards in a way that is consistent with what could reasonably be expected of a trainee teacher prior to the award of QTS. Providers need to ensure that their programmes are designed and delivered in such a way as to allow all trainees to meet these standards, as set out in the Secretary of State’s Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Criteria.’ (Teachers’ Standards, DfE, June 2013 para 6)

The Teachers’ Standards are presented in two parts – Part One: Teaching and Part Two: Personal and professional conduct. The first part has separate headings, numbered from 1 to 8, each of which is accompanied by bulleted sub-headings. The DfE explains that:

‘The bullets, which are an integral part of the standards, are designed to amplify the scope of each heading. The bulleted subheadings should not be interpreted as separate standards in their own right, but should be used by those assessing trainees and teachers to track progress against the standard, to determine areas where additional development might need to be observed, or to identify areas where a trainee or teacher is already demonstrating excellent practice relevant to that standard.’ (Teacher’s Standards, DfE, June 2013 para 13)

The message is clear. The eight overarching statements in the Teachers’ Standards are of greatest importance. These state that a teacher must:

  1. set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
  2. promote good progress and outcomes by pupils
  3. demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
  4. plan and teach well-structured lessons
  5. adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
  6. make accurate and productive use of assessment
  7. manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
  8. fulfil wider professional responsibilities.


Challenges for geography educators

Some of the main challenges in using the Standards and the ‘bullet points’ to assess teachers is that they are open to subjective judgements: they are not simple ‘can do’ statements that can be achieved once and be completed. For example, one of the bullet points in the area of subject and curriculum knowledge is: ‘demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship’.

In relation to this Standard, consider the following:

  • How do you determine a ‘critical understanding’? What ‘developments’ are the important ones in geography for a teacher to know? What type of evidence does a teacher need to show that they are promoting the value of scholarship? Such questions are matters of professional, subjective judgement and the expectations will differ according to the context and age of students being taught. The materials in the Learning to teach secondary geography pages of this website will give you insights into interpreting these questions.
  • The extract by Margaret Roberts discussing the use of Standards. Think about lessons you have observed. Have you ever fallen into the trap of considering a lesson to be good because the teaching conformed to ‘good practice’ without paying due attention to the teaching and learning of geography? What standards do you think Margaret was thinking about that are very important and should be demonstrated in every lesson?
  • The suggestions for possible expectations for the end of the first term. While these are merely suggestions, you could use them to discuss expectations with geography mentors/teachers, ITE coordinators or university tutors.


Moderating geography assessment judgements

In respect of ITE assessment, the DfE states that assessment judgements and recommendations should be understood across their ITT partnership, through their partnership agreements. The DfE ITT criteria (2023) require that, ‘Trainee assessment procedures should be rigorous and robust, supporting consistent and accurate judgements’ (DfE ITT criteria (2023) p 33).

It is important that the professional judgements you make of ITE trainees are as consistent as possible with judgements that other experienced geographers would make. When you assess a trainee, you are acting as a gatekeeper for the entry of geography teachers to the profession. Providers must ensure that assessment procedures are robust before they make recommendations for the award of QTS.

Therefore, it is important for you to take all opportunities you can to gain a shared understanding and interpretation of the current Teachers’ Standards by moderating your judgements with others. Moreover, this moderation should be with respect to geography because a non-specialist can only comment accurately on those aspects of the standards that are not subject-related.

In a school geography department, all geography teachers need to develop a shared understanding of the expectations of what a trainee should achieve to meet the Teachers’ Standards, otherwise trainees will be given mixed messages. Within your partnership, geography judgements should be moderated with other geography ITE trainers/mentors.

This can be done through discussion at meetings, in joint lesson observations with a geography tutor or by reviewing files together with another ITE trainer/mentor. Rigorous quality assurance procedures, as looked for by Ofsted, also require external, independent verification of your judgements by a geography specialist. External moderators have an important role in ensuring consistency of standards across, as well as within, ITT partnerships.


Finding evidence for ITE judgements about Standards

Each ITE provider decides the form and amount of evidence they need for assessments. Most schemes provide guidance for trainees on the evidence they could keep to contribute to the process. However, there can be tension between collecting sufficient evidence for rigorous judgements and putting too much pressure on the trainee to collect a portfolio of paper (or electronic) evidence.

Good systems of evidence gathering are precise and rigorous, but are also developmental for the trainee rather than burdensome. Avoid the situation where a trainee teacher spends so much time and effort putting together a portfolio of evidence that their teaching suffers.

Collect evidence through teachers’ observations of lessons and other activities, records of targets, reviews and progress reports, as well as the trainee’s records of planning, evaluations and students’ assessments. Your regular discussions with trainees, your knowledge of the experiences they have had in schools and your observation of how they conduct themselves around the school and with colleagues also contributes to your judgement.

The evidence for any of the Standards must be broad. It is important that you are sure that the trainee has securely met the standard required and it is not a ‘one off’ occurrence. Avoid a ‘tick box mentality’ where trainee teachers gather evidence against each Standard, because this encourages a trainee to think about fragments of teaching rather than take a holistic view of what is good teaching. Meeting each standard separately cannot be equated with being able to teach effectively.

The links below set out a series of questions to consider around each of the Teachers’ Standards and possible sources of evidence. These should be seen as prompts for you and trainee teachers to think about together. They are not intended as a further set of standards to be met, nor are they a ‘tick list’.

They are to guide discussions with trainee teachers and observations of their teaching. As you become a more experienced geography educator, these will become second nature to you, but at first it may help to refer to these sheets from time to time. The suggestions for evidence include the sorts of things to look for if you are going to say, with confidence, that that the Standards have been met. To reiterate, these sheets offer those assessing geography trainee teachers ‘food for thought’; they are not intended to be checklists!


Using the Teachers’ Standards to make assessments and reports of progress

Geography educators should focus on the full range of Standards – not just the subject ones. Work together with trainee teachers to monitor their progress. The assessment of Standards is not something to be done at a distance – you are both in this together.

Most providers have forms and processes to review progress against the Standards at regular review points. It is important that you undertake these reviews carefully, discuss the Standards thoroughly and avoid just ‘ticking boxes’. Together you should agree where your trainee has shown consistent evidence of the standard you are considering and instances where more progress is needed.

There is overlap between the Standards, so some elements of evidence may address more than one standard. There will be areas where a trainee may have had little experience, or opportunity for experience, at the time of review. Ways to provide this should be discussed and planned into future training.

The report forms used by ITE providers usually require assessments of trainees to be made under each of the Standards’ areas. When you write reports it is important to comment on a trainee’s positive developments as well as areas that need targeting. Standards are often disaggregated for the purpose of monitoring progress; however, to teach well the trainee’s attainment of the Standards must be integrated. Remember, in the end you must make a holistic judgement.

Look at this example of a final report of a trainee teacher.



  • Department for Education (2023) Initial teacher training (ITT): criteria and supporting advice: Statutory guidance for accredited ITT providers; Academic year 2024/25, DfE.