Major push for maths and physics teachers

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The Prime Minster, David Cameron, has announced a major push to get more maths and physics teachers into classrooms.

With more than 7 million jobs in the UK expected to be in the science-based industries by 2030 and engineering enterprises already employing more than 5.4 million, the major push is aimed at making sure future generations are able to compete with their international counterparts for the best jobs.

It includes an announce of a £15,000 university bursary for teenagers with good A-level maths and science grades, if they commit to enter teaching.

The £15,000 offer to help would-be teachers taking maths and physics courses would be in addition to incentives of up to £25,000 to attract high-flying graduates into teacher training for maths, physics, chemistry and computing.

It means that an individual student could receive incentives of £40,000 to become a maths teacher - a reflection of the pressure to find sufficient specialist teachers and the competition from other employers for sought-after graduates.

Three new schools specialising in engineering, mathematics and computing, and led by leading industry experts and universities, were also announced to support the next generation of engineers, tech specialists and problem solvers.

The new university technical colleges will put employers in the driving seat – allowing them to develop technical curriculums that will ensure young people have the skills required to meet the needs of these growing industries and have the best chance of securing top jobs when they leave. Two of the colleges approved will be the first ever with a focus on cyber security skills – to build an army of coding and programming experts.

Mr Cameron said: " A great education system won't just help our country succeed in the future; it will give families peace of mind that their kids can realise their full potential. That doesn't just mean building more good school places; it means teaching children what they need to know to make something of themselves."

Mr Cameron will provide more details of a £67m teacher recruitment drive, which will include 15,000 existing teachers being re-trained to be specialists in maths and science.

In addition, there will be plans to fast-track more people into teaching maths and science, including former teachers and those wanting to change careers.

A new approach will be to attract potential recruits at a younger age. These will begin with pilot projects, which will see incentives for young people to sign up for teaching before going to university.

The £15,000 over three years for potential teachers would help with living costs and would be repayable if students did not go on to teach for three years after graduating.

There will also be university courses piloted which will combine a physics degree with a teaching qualification, so that graduates could go directly into teaching without an additional year of postgraduate teacher training.

Professor Dame Julia Higgins FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society's Education Committee, said: "As the Royal Society's Vision report emphasised last year, this country continues to experience severe shortages of science and mathematics teachers. With primary and secondary school rolls set to rise in the years ahead, eradicating these shortages must be a top priority. A range of strategies will be required to ensure we have enough suitably qualified science and mathematics teachers. Failure to do so will have significant negative consequences for young people and the UK's economic ambitions."

The Institute of Physics has also welcomed the government’s announcement of new measures intended to increase the number of specialist physics teachers.

IOP Vice-President Education, Philip Britton, said: “The shortage of physics teachers is one of the Institute’s major areas of concern, so we’re pleased that the government is taking steps to address that shortage, and recognises the need for well-trained specialist teachers.

“We also need about 400 new physics teachers over and beyond last year’s recruitment numbers.

"Whether they’re returners or whether we’re retraining existing teachers, we need to recruit by whatever means, from a bigger pool than just physics graduates – as long as they get the right training.”

School Leadership Today
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