‘Physics with maths’ makes winning combination

12 December 2011

A new pilot programme of teacher training courses which should help to redress the shortage of specialist physics teachers in schools across England is being adopted by 32 universities as demand soars.

‘Physics with maths’ makes winning combination

The new courses, which allows graduates to train to teach the combination of physics with mathematics, will be offered by some of the country’s most high profile universities, including Oxford and Warwick, with an aim to recruit 306 trainees for September 2012.

News of the courses follows the announcement of the record-breaking number of physics specialist trainees – 864 – recruited this year for courses that started in September 2011, and means that universities will be aiming to recruit 1,150 physics trainees in total next year.

Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at IOP, said, “We are delighted that so many PGCE providers are keen to introduce this new course. 

“We have been aware of a demand for such courses for some time. Physics with maths is a natural combination that appeals to many physics and engineering graduates who have the potential to become teachers in these key shortage subjects. 

“Historically, many of these graduates might have been deterred from training to teach physics by the prospect of having to learn to teach biology and chemistry as well –  subjects with which they may have much less familiarity.

The introduction of the new physics and maths courses is supported by the RAEng and the IMA and has come into being through the cooperation and combined efforts of the Government, the TDA, the professional bodies and ITT providers.

Prof Main added, “This is another example of a joint effort to overcome the dire shortage of specialist physics teachers in school.  We’re delighted that the tide is turning.”

One example, Glen Cornhill, a post-16 teacher from Burton-upon-Trent, who regards the new course as an opportunity to return to teacher training to achieve full qualified teacher status, which will allow him to teach all ages, said, "The introduction of these courses makes a huge difference.

“I find it a bewildering idea that the sciences all come under one blanket. My understanding of biology and chemistry is poor at best, except the very few places where it connects with physics. Mathematics however is very much the language of physics and keeping up to date with it allows a teacher to be much better at embedding the skills into physics."  

The IOP has calculated that, in England, in order to ensure that every student is taught physics by a suitably qualified and enthusiastic teacher, 1,000 new physics teachers are needed every year for more than a decade to overcome the historical shortage.

Professor Nigel Steele, Education Secretary of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, said, "We are delighted that opportunities will be available for graduates to teach the combination of mathematics and physics. These two subject are mutually reinforcing and an increase in the number of teachers who are well qualified in both subjects will benefit students' understanding of both physics and mathematics."

Stephen Hillier, Chief Executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), said, “It’s fantastic that some of the country’s best universities and schools are going to be running the new physics with mathematics training courses. 

“We are confident that their prestigious support and the design of the courses will attract top physics and engineering graduates to train to teach, enabling standards in school to continue to rise.”

To find out more about the courses please visit the TDA website or call the teaching information line on 0800 389 2500.