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IOP: physics teacher training figures still way off target

7 December 2023

Too many young people will continue to miss out on a physics education in their schools as target for training new teachers missed yet again. 

Responding to the publication of the annual Initial Teacher Training Census by the Department for Education, the chief executive of the Institute of Physics (IOP), Tom Grinyer, said: “Today’s teacher recruitment figures show the desperate shortage of physics teachers is only getting worse, with less than one in five (17%) of the government’s target trainee physics teachers recruited this year in England, compared to 93% in biology and 65% in chemistry.

“Once again physics trails behind other STEM subjects and this is the second year in a row that the government has missed its target by more than 80%. Every year we fall short is another missed opportunity to start plugging the gap in physics education.

“At the IOP we estimate that we need an extra 3,500 physics teachers across England if we are going to give every student the chance to benefit from the transformational life opportunities that come from pursuing physics. We already know that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have specialist physics teachers in their schools and that this, in turn, makes them less likely to pursue physics and the huge variety of careers it opens up.

“Closing the physics teacher gap should be a national priority and is crucial to building the innovative economy and society we all want to see for the future. But we are still miles away from meeting that aspiration – we need a redoubled, concerted effort across the whole education and training system to ensure we recruit, retrain and retain the physics teachers we need.”