Where have all the physics teachers gone?

Long time passing...

The government must take urgent action to combat a chronic shortage of physics teachers, the Institute of Physics said today, as a report links a steep decline in the number of A-level physics students with a lack of expert physics instructors coming into the profession.

The report, written by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, says that government initiatives to recruit more specialist physics teachers are failing.

It also stresses that biology and chemistry graduates teaching general science need better support and more training to help them when they are teaching their students physics.

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at the Institute of Physics argues that the government must set recruitment targets for individual sciences, not just for graduates from any science subject.

"We urgently need to recruit more specialist physics teachers. There are far fewer physicists going into teaching than chemists or biologists," he said. "This report clearly shows that pupils being taught physics by non-specialists are not performing as well. Professional development for non-specialists must be seen as a priority by both schools and the government."

As many as 30 per cent of current physics teachers are due to retire in the next ten years, and the IoP warns that if the issue of recruitment is not addressed, this will have "major ramifications" for the country's economy, according to a press statement.

"The number of trained physicists entering teaching will not be large enough to repair the damage for the foreseeable future," Main continued, before again calling on the government to make support for non-specialist teachers a priority.

"Government should provide ring-fenced funding and incentives to allow non-specialist teachers to get the training and support for teaching physics that they need," he added.

For more information on what the IoP itself is doing about this issue, point your browser here. ®

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