IOP welcomes government’s plans to boost physics teacher numbers

11 March 2015

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has welcomed the government’s announcement of new measures intended to increase the number of specialist physics teachers

IOP welcomes government’s plans to boost physics teacher numbers

Plans announced this morning (11 March) include training 15,000 non-specialists, and delivering up to 2500 new maths and physics teachers by attracting new graduates and highly skilled career-changers, and by bringing former teachers back into the classroom.

The IOP’s vice-president of education, Philip Britton, said: “The shortage of physics teachers is one of the Institute’s major areas of concern, so we’re pleased that the government is taking steps to address that shortage, and recognises the need for well-trained specialist teachers.

“We support the principle of these new measures and are happy to work with government and the new teachers that these steps create to help ensure that the future of physics teaching is a bright one.”

There is evidence that subject-specialist teachers increase engagement with and understanding of a subject – and the likelihood that a student will continue studying it beyond the age of 16. However, the education system is lacking around 3500 physics specialists – it would take more than 10 years of recruiting 1000 teachers a year to put this right. The current target is 925.

“We also need about 400 new physics teachers over and beyond last year’s recruitment numbers,” says Britton. “Whether they’re returners or whether we’re retraining existing teachers, we need to recruit, by whatever means, from a bigger pool than just physics graduates – as long as they get the right training.”

Today’s announcement reinforces the IOP’s own programmes, such as its Teacher Training Scholarships and the Stimulating Physics Network, both funded by the Department for Education. The former is aimed at attracting more top graduates into physics teaching, while the latter is a network for teachers of physics offering regular, tailored support.

The Institute also provides resources for those considering returning to teaching.