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The impact of high-quality teaching

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

High-quality teaching has a long-term positive effect on pupils’ life chances, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn that... High-quality teaching has a long-term positive effect on pupils’ life chances, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Teachers who help students improve noncognitive skills such as self-regulation raise their grades and likelihood of graduating from high school more than teachers who help them improve their standardized test scores do.

Quality First Teaching is a style of teaching that emphasises high quality, inclusive teaching for all pupils in a class. Quality first teaching includes differentiated learning, strategies to support SEN pupils’ learning in class, on-going formative assessment and many others.

Quality first teaching has existed in one form or another since 2010. Though the minutiae of what it involves has changed over time, some core principles have remained consistent – personalising learning to the individual needs of pupils, encouraging greater inclusion of pupils with SEN needs, and working to narrow the attainment gap. You can read more about Quality First Teaching in Neil Almond's article on Third Space Learning here.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, in Personalised Learning: A Practical Guide, offered their own interpretation of what constitutes as quality first teaching. On page 10, the document says that QFT:

‘… demands 100% participation from the pupils, and sets high and realistic challenges. It does not ‘spoon feed’, it is challenging and demanding; it expects pupils to be able to articulate their ideas, understanding and thinking by actively promoting pupil talk.’

On page 12, the guide summarises the key characteristics of QFT as:

  • Highly focused lesson design with sharp learning objectives

  • High demands of pupil involvement and engagement with their learning

  • High levels of interaction for all pupils

  • Appropriate use of questioning, modelling and explaining on the part of the teacher

  • An emphasis on learning through dialogue, with regular opportunities for pupils to talk both individually and in groups

  • An expectation that pupils will accept responsibility for their own learning and work independently

  • Regular use of encouragement and authentic praise to engage and motivate pupils

The gap refers to the range of pupil performance that is wider in England than in most developed countries. This is the key leadership issue for both school and team leaders. There is no doubt that there are many factors that explain the gap; some are cultural and historic, others social and economic.

In the school, it is the 'factors closest to student learning' that have the greatest effect. This relates directly to the quality of teaching and learning and the effectiveness of teachers. In many ways, this is the pivotal point of this programme: it is the fundamental purpose of team leaders to work on the quality of teaching and learning. Nothing is as important; it’s why schools have team leaders.

Strategies to close the gap work on many levels, but the area of greatest impact is ensuring the consistent quality of teaching and learning.

According to the OECD, variation in performance within schools is four times greater than the variation in performance between schools. The result is that the UK has one of the biggest class divides in education in the industrial world. In comprehensive school systems, within-school variation in pupil attainment seems to be much greater than between-school variation. A DfES study of 2003 data showed that in value-added terms, Key Stage 2 within-school variation is five times greater than between-school variance. For Key Stage 3, it's 11 times greater and for Key Stage 4, it's 14 times greater.

National College, 2005, p3

The biggest single variable (30 per cent) that explains in-school variation is teachers: teaching strategies, professional characteristics and classroom climate explain the disturbing levels of variation in some schools. Achieving consistency means eliminating variation and that in turn involves identifying the non-negotiables, ie aspects of teaching and learning that have been identified as essential to raising performance and achievement. In very broad terms, high-performing schools are schools with the lowest levels of variation, ie the highest levels of consistently outstanding practice. The leadership of subject or phase teaching has to start and end with the issue of consistency and variation.

The impact of in-school variation is shown in the Sutton Trust (2011) report 'Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK: interim findings'.

There is now a larger focus on high quality teaching, but what does this look like? Lessons are no longer individually graded (against Ofsted criteria at least), more often as a trainee or an ECT you will be assessed against the teacher standards. Therefore, against each teacher standard, the key aspects of high quality teaching are as follows:

TS1 Expectations

  • Children and teachers discussing success criteria and expectations

  • Challenge for the more able children in every lesson

  • A culture where achievement in expected but also celebrated

  • Children given opportunities to develop resilience, stamina and determination

  • Children being held increasingly accountable for their work – both in quality and quantity – as they progress through the school

  • Children know what attributes and skills aid successful learning, what they are good at and what they need to do to improve

  • Teaching promotes high levels of resilience, confidence and independence when tackling challenging activities

TS2 Promoting good progress and outcomes

  • Assessment is used effectively to impact on learning

  • Lessons are clearly evaluated and subsequent learning is amended to take account of changing pupil needs

  • Children are empowered to take an increasing responsibility for their learning

  • Growth mindset is explicitly verbalised and displayed in class

  • Teachers are aware of progress and attainment and take an active part in pupil progress meetings, reflecting on impact of interventions, planning next steps and sharing with TA’s to target support where needed

  • Teachers need to be aware of work / life balance

TS3 Subject and curriculum knowledge

  • Teacher modelling of appropriate vocabulary across the curriculum

  • Teachers plan carefully to build on children’s prior knowledge

  • Freedom and space are provided for children to pursue individual interests and engage in sustained activities.

  • Teachers actively promote the learning to learn curriculum

  • Teachers model the expectations that are expected of the children

TS4 Planning

  • Teachers plan carefully structured lessons and programs (both long and medium term) to ensure that there is broad, balanced, rich and relevant curriculum, based on children's prior learning and achievement.

  • Planning must clearly identify a range of learning opportunities appropriate to all children’s needs

  • All lessons to have clear, quality Learning Objectives that are non-context based and children understand why the lesson is important

  • All lessons to have clear success criteria that are differentiated

  • Children have time to reflect and self evaluate their learning

  • Lessons are evaluated in order to modify and improve future teaching

  • Teachers systematically assessing and tracking children's progress throughout the school

  • School proformas for lesson planning should be adhered to

  • Teachers planning to teach a combination of skills and knowledge leading to understanding that can then be applied in other situations

  • Teachers knowing when to depart from prepared planning to allow more fruitful learning opportunities, led by children’s enthusiasm and other stimuli

  • Lessons presented in a variety of styles

  • Teaching that indicates what the next steps in learning will be

  • Teaching assistants are deployed effectively

TS5 Responding to strengths and needs of all pupils

  • Teachers share planning with teaching assistants in advance and clearly set out their impact in all parts of the lesson

  • Teachers prepare for transition meetings for new class / secondary transfer

  • Teachers to work with outside agencies / CPD opportunities where appropriate to meet needs of pupils

  • Teachers to seek advice within school if they do not feel they are able to meet the needs of all children

  • Teachers to plan additional opportunities to extend and deepen learning for the more able both within and outside school

TS6 Using assessment to impact on learning

  • Learning objective is shared with children and success criteria either shared or generated with children

  • Children evaluate their own learning against success criteria

  • Teacher uses mini plenaries and visualiser to share work mid lesson and children evaluate against success criteria

  • Examples of work are shared including excellent examples to model

  • Marking highlights positives and specific areas for improvement. Children given time to work on these in a timely manner.

TS7 Effective management of behaviour

  • Classroom rules are routinely and consistently enforced

  • Children celebrated for effort not just attainment

  • Foster intrinsic rather than extrinsic reward

  • Teachers work with parents regarding children whose behaviour is a concern

  • School behaviour policy is regularly reviewed with staff and applied consistently

  • Lessons are planned to engage children’s’ interests and enthusiasms

  • Teachers to involve senior staff or other professionals such as the home school link worker to support children whose behaviour causes a concern

TS8 Wider professional responsibilities

  • Teachers are highly regarded by colleagues, who want to learn from them. They willingly play a role in the development of school policies and in the professional life of the school through their curriculum team contributions. They work in collaboration with colleagues, such as SEN leaders and the pastoral teams on wider pupil-related matters, giving and receiving advice as appropriate. They engage with and contribute to professional networks beyond the school.

  • Teachers are analytical in evaluating and developing their own craft and knowledge, making full use of continuing professional development and appropriate research.

  • Teachers recognise the vital importance of out-of-school and extra-curricular activities, both academically and personally, and play a leading role here and in the wider life of the school.

  • Teachers are open in the giving and receiving of professional advice, which may include coaching or mentoring colleagues and less-experienced teachers.

  • Teachers work to significant effect with parents, with helpful professional communication in ensuring high quality education and care for the pupils in the school.


  • Homework set is appropriate for all learners

  • Teacher aware of children who may find it difficult to complete homework at home

  • Homework is shared with children, marked regularly and positive feedback given

  • Homework is designed to extend the current school curriculum and deepen children’s understanding

Learning environment

  • Displays which are interactive and stimulating .They value and reinforce learning across a range of curriculum areas. Displays are regularly changed. Classrooms may have working walls linked to maths and literacy

  • Resources which are well organised, relevant and accessible.

  • Classroom layout promotes learning and is safe so children can move around safely, see central areas and work collaboratively.

  • Rules, rewards and targets are clearly displayed and accessible

  • Information for Parents and children is up to date and accessible.

  • Health and Safety is promoted and the environment is welcoming and fun and shows that adults and children are respected by each other.

Sutton Trust Report: Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK – interim findings


[Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

Aronson, J. (Ed.) (2002) Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. New York: Academic Press.

Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Campbell Collaboration (2018) School-based interventions for reducing disciplinary school exclusion: A Systematic Review. Accessible from: .

Chapman, R. L., Buckley, L., & Sheehan, M. (2013) School-Based Programs for Increasing Connectedness and Reducing Risk Behavior: A Systematic Review, 25(1), 95–114.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Rockoff, J. E. (2014) Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood. American Economic Review, 104(9), 2633–2679. .

*Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit: Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Hanushek, E. (1992) The Trade-off between Child Quantity and Quality. Journal of Political Economy, 100(4), 859–887.

*Institute of Education Sciences (2008) Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom. Accessible from

Johnson, S., Buckingham, M., Morris, S., Suzuki, S., Weiner, M., Hershberg, R., B. Weiner, Hershberg, R., Fremont, E., Batanova, M., Aymong, C., Hunter, C., Bowers, E., Lerner, J., & Lerner, R. (2016) Adolescents’ Character Role Models: Exploring Who Young People Look Up to as Examples of How to Be a Good Person. Research in Human Development, 13(2), 126–141.

Jussim, L. & Harber, K., (2005) Teacher Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Knowns and Unknowns, Resolved and Unresolved Controversies, Personality and Social Psychology Review 2005, Vol. 9, No. 2, 131–1557.

Lazowski, R. A., & Hulleman, C. S. (2016) Motivation Interventions in Education: A Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 602–640. .

Murdock-Perriera, L. A., & Sedlacek, Q. C. (2018) Questioning Pygmalion in the twenty-first century: the formation, transmission, and attributional influence of teacher expectancies. Social Psychology of Education, 21(3), 691–707. .

*PISA (2015) PISA in Focus: Do teacher-student relations affect students’ well-being at school? Accessible from: .

Rathmann K., Herke M., Hurrelmann K., Richter M. (2018) Perceived class climate and school-aged children's life satisfaction: The role of the learning environment in classrooms. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0189335. .

Rubie-Davies, C. M., Weinstein, R. S., Huang, F. L., Gregory, A., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (2014) Successive teacher expectation effects across the early school years. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 181–191. .

Slater, H., Davies, N. M., & Burgess, S. (2011) Do Teachers Matter? Measuring the Variation in Teacher Effectiveness in England. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, .

Tsiplakides, I. & Keramida, A. (2010) The relationship between teacher expectations and student achievement in the teaching of English as a foreign language. English Language Teaching, 3(2), P22. Retrieved from .

Wubbels, T., Brekelmans, M., den Brok, P., Wijsman, L., Mainhard, T., & van Tartwijk, J. (2014) Teacher-student relationships and classroom management. In E. T. Emmer, E. Sabornie, C. Evertson, & C. Weinstein (Eds.). Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (2nd ed., pp. 363–386). New York, NY: Routledge.

Zins, J. E., Bloodworth, M. R., Weissberg, R. P., & Walberg, H. J. (2007) The Scientific Base Linking Social and Emotional Learning to School Success. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 17(2–3), 191–210.


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