Physics teacher supply

The ups and downs of entering a teaching specialism which is in shortage.

Although the number of new physics teachers is on the increase and there are many initiatives to increase recruitment, the sad fact remains that there is a chronic shortage of physics specialists.

What does this mean for new physics teachers?

Ups:

Physics teachers are a scarce resource, so this gives you some bargaining power when job hunting:

  • There may be scope for exploring salary possibilities with schools who want to make you an offer, particularly as more schools become deregulated.
  • Don’t feel under pressure to accept the first available job and apply to a variety of schools as this is - to some extent - a physics teachers market.

A recent (career changer) NQT wrote: “Physics teachers are very highly sought after – I had five interviews before I decided that where I was was where I wanted to be. I did my NQT there and then the Head of Science post became available. I was advised to apply and got it!”

Downs:

On average, school science departments have just 1.6 physics teachers, which means many schools have a single physics specialist - and you may find that you are it!

For some people, this may be exciting or even empowering; for others, it may be a lonely prospect.

  • Ensure your potential employer is fully aware that this needs addressing with training/extra non-contact time and also to invest in good quality resources if the school does not currently have any. Request a clear CPD programme or a mentor from a neighbouring school.
  • Being the only specialist will undoubtedly increase your workload. But there is support available to you, through the IOP’s resources and Physics Teacher Network. There is also the possibility of IOP mentoring through our Stimulating Physics Support programme, depending on circumstances.

A former physics teacher in Wales commented: “I think you can cope with GCSE as the only NQT physicist in a school - after all that is the bread and butter side. A-level is probably pushing it too far. A chap with a PhD took over from me as a lone physicist who was an NQT and he really, really struggled.”