Parliamentary push for specialist physics teachers

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The Institute of Physics (IOP) has called on MPs to ensure that all school students in the UK have access to high-quality physics teaching.

The IOP is concerned at the lack of specialist physics teachers and the consequent drop in the number of entrants to physics A-level. This in turn, they say, poses a threat to the health of physics in the future and threatens the UK economy.

It is calling for greater incentives to attract physics graduates into teaching in order to create access to high-quality physics teaching for every child.

The Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, said he accepts “that there is a continuing need to increase the number of physics teachers."

He said: “It is our policy intention to attract more physics and other science graduates into the profession.  We are therefore reviewing the routes into teaching and the incentives offered to well qualified people who want to teach physics or one of the other science disciplines.

“We are considering a scheme to repay the students loans of science and mathematics teachers. 

"We have also announced plans to double the number of participants in the successful scheme Teach First so that more schools may benefit from the talents of the country’s best graduates.  Three-quarters of Teach First participants teach the most demanding shortage subjects, including science. 

"Further initiatives will be announced when we are in a position to do so.”

Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive at IOP, said: "One in four 11-16 schools in England lacking a specialist physics teacher - a science teacher with expert subject knowledge and enthusiasm for physics - and more than 500 schools not sending any pupils at all on to study A-level physics. a

"A concerted effort is required and there is no time to wait for future initiatives. Of particular concern is whether this Government aspires to the target, set in 2004, of having 35 000 students sit physics A level each year by 2014.  This is a crucial target to meet employer demands and help recover our flagging economy. 

“Schemes like Teach First are very admirable initiatives, but they not enough on their own to fill the gaping hole that exists in the science teaching workforce.  Over the last twenty years, we needed 700 new physics teachers a year to maintain numbers.  The figure has been more like 400 -and we now need to aim for 1000 a year to provide young people with the study and career opportunities to which they are entitled."

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