Scholarships continue as physics teacher recruitment rises

6 September 2012

Education Secretary Michael Gove has today announced the continuation of a £2m-a-year partnership between the Department for Education and the Institute of Physics (IOP).

Physics teaching in practice

In a sustained effort to overcome the chronic shortage of specialist physics teachers, Michael Gove has announced that IOP’s Teacher Training Scholarships will continue.

He said, “Following the successful recruitment of 115 excellent trainee teachers this year, I’m delighted to announce another recruitment round over this academic year.

“We are starting to see the root causes of our physics teacher shortage being addressed.  By raising the status of the profession, we’re bringing highly sought after physics graduates and career-changers, all with incredible aptitude to teach, into the classroom.”

The £20,000 scholarships – available to graduates with a 2:1 or first class degree intending to do a mainstream physics, or physics with maths, Initial Teacher Training Course, have contributed to another year of record high physics teacher recruitment.

IOP will publish today a summary of trends in physics education and, as the note reports, “While there is no magic bullet to remedy the chronic shortage of physics teachers, the situation is starting to improve as steps have been taken by both the IOP and the Department for Education.” 

With need to recruit 1,000 new specialist physics teachers every year for more than a decade to address the imbalance between the number of specialist biology, chemistry and physic teachers in science departments across England, there is still a long way to go.

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at IOP, comments, “For the second year running, we are seeing record numbers of would-be teachers starting teacher training courses in either physics or physics with maths.

“Last year, we saw 889 new trainees start their Initial Teacher Training and this year all evidence suggests that we’ll see more than 900 entering teacher training.  This is up from below 600 just two years ago.”

IOP credits a range of developments with the strides being made to address the teacher shortage.  From the Government’s introduction of ambitious teacher recruitment targets for physics through to the Teacher Training Scholarships and efforts being made to retain greater numbers of physics teachers in the profession once qualified.

With the shortage due to persist for at least a decade another government-funded programme called the Stimulating Physics Network continues to work with non-specialist physics teachers to ensure non-specialists (often biologists) have the knowledge, enthusiasm and confidence to successfully teach physics.