Physics for All

Physics for All is a grassroots campaign to raise awareness among head teachers and school governing bodies of the issues surrounding physics education in schools.

Lampton Park School pupils

The past 30 years have seen huge challenges for physics in our schools. In the UK, numbers of A-level and Higher entries have dwindled to 30% below those of the early 1980s and many schools have been without a specialist physics teacher. In Ireland, just 11% of students took Leaving Certificate physics, while almost a quarter of all secondary schools do not even offer physics for Leaving Certificate.

A-level and Higher physics student numbers are now on the rise and the government has set an ambitious annual target for the recruitment of new physics teachers in England, but this is not a time to be complacent.

To build an economy based on a highly skilled, numerate and innovative workforce and to provide the best opportunities for our young people, we need A-level and Higher numbers to return to the levels of the 1980s and we need a culture of physics within our schools and colleges.

This is the aspiration behind Physics for All.

As more educational decisions are devolved to individual schools, the IOP needs to build new links with schools across the country. Members, and others with an interest in physics education, can get involved in the campaign by acting as local ambassadors for physics in their relationships with their neighbourhood schools.

Get involved
The key questions to be asking head teachers and school governors are:

  • How many students at your school sat AS-/Higher and A-level/Advanced Higher/Leaving Certificate physics last year?
  • What proportion of students taking A-level/Higher/Leaving Certificate physics are girls?
  • How do you encourage students to think about choosing A-level/Higher/Leaving Certificate physics?
  • How many specialist physics teachers does your school have?

By asking these questions during school and college open days or parent/governor meetings, for example, you will be helping to raise awareness of the issues that physics education faces and highlight the support that is available from the Institute.

Please let us know what you find out by emailing physicsforall@iop.org

A handy postcard with these questions and relevant national information to pass on to your local school can be downloaded here:

Did you know?

  • On average, 10% of students in England who are entered for at least one A-level take A-level physics. In good physics schools, this rises to 25%
  • In Northern Ireland, 91.4% of students who sat A-level physics in 2008 were from selective schools. In 2006, only 10% of science teachers in non-selective schools had a physics degree. In selective schools, this rose to 30%
  • In Ireland, only 11% of Leaving Certificate students took physics in 2011 compared to 20% in 1990
  • In the UK, only 21% of A-level and 24% of AS-level physics students in 2011 were female
  • In 2011, only 19% of Advanced Higher and 28% of Higher physics students were female
  • A-Level/Advanced Higher physics is a key facilitating subject. One of the most frequent entry requirements for a wide range of higher education courses, it is also highly valued when not an explicit entry requirement
  • More than half of first-degree physics graduates earn a salary in excess of £40 000 and more than half with a PhD in physics earn in excess of £50 000
  • In Ireland, 40% of physics graduates earn over €60 000
  • Studying physics opens up one of the widest ranges of future career options – free careers-from-physics resources for schools are available from the IOP
  • Confident and enthusiastic teachers are key to subject choice; in-service support is available for: