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IOP welcomes Lords committee calls for curriculum reform

13 December 2023

But stresses more must be done to tackle teacher retention, recruitment and retraining.

The IOP has responded today to the publication of a report from the House of Lords Education for 11–16 Year Olds Committee, which argues that curricula and qualification structures are ripe for an update.

Louis Barson, the IOP’s Director of Science, Innovation and Skills, said: “For physics, the report’s recommendation to shift the focus from a large number of detailed, disparate facts to a smaller number of big ideas is positive.

“However, this change alone will not solve the problems physics education faces – namely staffing shortages and the barriers to entry that deter too many students from all backgrounds taking physics in the first place.

“This week’s Department for Education figures showed the shortage of physics teachers (in England) is getting worse. Only 17% of the government’s target for trainee physics teacher recruitment was met this year, so the current shortage of around 3,500 physics teachers will only keep growing.

“Denying many students – particularly those in more-disadvantaged areas – access to a specialist physics teacher.

“We also need to continue to work to improve diversity in physics. Data we examined in 2021 showed 70% of physics A-level students came from only 30% of schools; with young people from underrepresented diverse groups and in less-affluent areas being far less likely to study physics.

“Curriculum change is certainly overdue, but is only part of the picture – we need to make sure the teachers are there to teach it and that all students get access as well before we can really start to unlock the opportunities a career in physics can bring for both the individual and society.”