Teachers are crucial to encouraging more young people from underrepresented groups to study physics in school and consider a career using physics.
Educators in nurseries and schools must see young people as individuals so that they can be helped to realise their full potential and be supported to make their own choices.
Unfortunately, some educators make assumptions about young people based on their ethnicity, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation and social background rather than who they are as individuals. By expressing their own conscious or unconscious biases, these educators discourage young people from exploring all of their possibilities.
This is a problem that demands our urgent attention.
Creating an inclusive, equitable environment
To ensure that all young people are treated equally, there needs to be a transformation in our nurseries and schools. Our governments and senior leaders in schools must take the lead to make this change happen.
A whole-school approach must be adopted to tackle the barriers holding back some young people.
Every young person should see physics as something that is for them.
Promoting the benefits of physics
Young people and their families need to know the positive benefits of continuing with physics. This could be either through study or an apprenticeship or technical role. They need to know that studying physics doesn’t narrow career opportunities but opens doors to jobs in many sectors.
More also needs to be done to make sure young people know about the contribution that physics makes to our society and the opportunities it gives them to change their world.
What the IOP wants to see
The IOP is calling on the governments of the UK and Ireland to:
- Revise teachers’ standards to set out an expectation that teachers will address injustice in their professional practice and actively dismantle sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism and classism in their own work and their schools.
- Ensure that all teachers are trained in inclusive teaching and tackling injustice so that they can achieve these robust standards. This should be in both their initial teacher education and their continuing professional development.
- Instruct those responsible for school inspections to place greater emphasis on the importance of inclusive teaching and schools’ efforts to address injustice.
- Mandate nurseries and schools to develop whole-school equity action plans that:
- are informed by ongoing data and evidence collection.
- promote equity and equality for young people in underrepresented groups.
In all nurseries and schools, the IOP wants to see:
- All staff prioritise challenging conscious and unconscious bias and stereotyping.
- Educators, parents and students develop and implement whole-school equity action plans that provide an inclusive environment that promotes equity and equality for younger people in underrepresented groups.
- Governors play an active role in ensuring that equality is promoted in their schools and that inequalities are addressed, including appointing a member with specific responsibility for equality.
- Teachers teach inclusive physics lessons that promote a positive, contemporary view of physics and portray physicists from underrepresented groups.
- All schoolchildren and their parents receive a good standard of careers advice that includes physics-related career options and encourages them to consider studying physics from age 16.
- More schoolchildren from underrepresented groups benefit from learning outside the classroom, such as in STEM physics clubs.