IOP welcomes focus on physics teacher shortage in National Audit Office report

10 February 2016

A National Audit Office (NAO) report has highlighted the shortage of specialist physics teachers in England, with the IOP issuing a response following publication of the report today.

IOP welcomes focus on physics teacher shortage in National Audit Office report

The NAO report said that 29% of postgraduate teacher training places in physics were unfilled in 2015/16, while the overall figure for all subjects was 6%. While 75% of all postgraduate teacher training entrants had at least an upper second degree in 2015/16, for physics postgraduate entrants the proportion was 63%. The report also showed that the proportion of physics classes taught by a teacher without a post A-level physics qualification rose from 21% in 2010 to 28% in 2014.

The IOP’s head of education, Charles Tracy, said: “The most crucial element in encouraging students to study physics is the teachers who can inspire them to do so. As such, the recruitment and retention of great teachers is a serious concern.

“We’re pleased that the NAO has focused its attention on the existing shortage of physics specialists in the workforce and on the issues affecting the supply of teachers.

“Addressing the shortage is something that we have been working on for some time. Alongside marketing and outreach efforts on university campuses to increase the status of the teaching profession and recruit higher numbers of new teachers, we administer and champion the Department for Education’s scholarship scheme, offering 150 £30,000 scholarships to the best teaching prospects.

“Through our Stimulating Physics Network – which has worked with more than 1,050 secondary school science departments – we are also improving teacher retention. Our network has allowed us to offer extensive support to more than half of those newly qualified to teach in England and given us the opportunity to build the confidence of those science teachers who are asked to teach physics despite them having a degree in a different science.

“For physics, it is a problem that can only be addressed with sustained and long-term effort. That is why we welcome the government's commitment to improving recruitment – including setting a separate target for physics.

“We need to recruit 1,000 new physics teachers every year to bridge the gap so, while the gap’s being plugged, we will continue to work closely with science departments to make sure we continue to inspire the next generation of potential physicists.”