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IOP Scotland urges teachers to respond to government’s education reform survey

31 October 2023

More voices can help spread message about the importance of physics and physics teaching in driving future growth and protecting the planet.

IOP Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s survey on education reform, and is encouraging all Scottish teachers and those with an interest in education to do the same.

The survey (update: the survey is now closed) was launched by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth MSP, to allow more feedback, especially from the teaching community, on the national discussion on Scottish education and the independent review of qualifications and assessment, both published in 2023.

The IOP represents and supports several hundred physics teachers in Scottish schools, as well as physicists in academia, research and industry. The education reform programme is an opportunity to do several things which the physics community has been calling for: boost the number of young people choosing to pursue physics; ensure the curriculum and assessment system conveys and captures the right elements in the right ways; and support teachers to improve their own learning and practice.

IOP research has shown that one in 10 Scottish jobs and one-sixth of the Scottish economy is dependent on physics knowledge and skills, but also that there are substantial skills gaps which are hampering or delaying investment opportunities.

The Scottish Government has recently acknowledged in its National Innovation Strategy that almost all innovating sectors which will boost the Scottish economy are based on physics, including energy transfer, digital health, quantum and photonics, space, robotics and AI. The country will also need thousands more workers skilled in physics to build a green economy and also meet climate change obligations and net zero targets, transforming energy generation, powering green transport and heating homes and buildings sustainably. 

The Scottish Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan acknowledges that fairness and inclusion must be part of the skills system to achieve a just transition to net zero.

A key element of boosting the numbers is to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds to study physics beyond the age of 16. The IOP’s Limit Less campaign wants to encourage those from underrepresented groups to change the world through physics, predominantly by changing perceptions in schools, families and communities which support young people.

The IOP’s response (PDF, 99KB) also serves as a guide to teachers thinking of responding.

Head of IOP Scotland, Alison McLure, said: “Scotland stands on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution, and the technologies involved will rely on physics knowledge and skills. We will need many more young people to pursue physics at all levels of education – and to do so from more diverse backgrounds – if we want our nation to take advantage.

“Yet schools can and must do more to inform and enthuse young people about physics, the opportunities for fascinating, well-paid careers it leads to, and the moral imperative to protect and preserve the planet for future generations. The education reform programme can help us achieve this, and the voice of every teacher in Scotland – not just physics ones – matters to get this across.”