Focus Areas

Science in Schools

We support science in secondary schools and colleges through initiatives which encourage innovation and engaging practical activity in science lessons and STEM clubs and by piloting new approaches to teacher recruitment and professional development.

Science in Schools

Gatsby are commited to supporting practical science in schools and colleges. Our efforts are focused on strengthening the role of technicians, celebrating teacher demonstrations and improving the assessment of practical skills in science.

We believe that school and college students in the UK deserve a rich and varied programme of practical activities as part of their science education in order to provide them with the motivation and skills needed to progress to higher education, STEM employment and to become scientifically engaged citizens.

We have, for many years, championed the importance of a robust system of teacher recruitment, retention and development. Although the shortage of physics teachers had long been acknowledged, Gatsby was the first to quantify the scale of the problem, finding that around a quarter of 11-16 maintained schools did not have a single physics specialist on their staff.

Often working in partnership with the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the government agencies, we have developed and piloted a number of programmes to tackle this problem, seeking to increase both the recruitment and retention of physics teachers. At the height of our work in this field, nearly a quarter of all new physicists entering teaching were coming from Gatsby-supported schemes. In 2012 a record 900 physicists started their teacher training. Unfortunately, this number has fallen in recent years. We continue to work with others to find solutions to the problem.

Previous Programmes

Science Enhancement Programme (SEP)

We established the Science Enhancement Programme (SEP) in 1998 to develop innovative, low cost resources which enhance science education in secondary schools, and to provide support for science teachers at all stages of their career through specialist training.

The majority of secondary schools in England have benefitted from using SEP resources to support and enhance their science teaching. Teachers and technicians have also benefited from a programme of bespoke professional development to develop their confidence to carry out practical work effectively.

SEP continues to publish Catalyst, a science magazine for students aged 14-19, four times a year (October, December, February and April), and an archive of more than 200 past articles in PDF format is available online.

As SEP developed as a programme it has moved location a number of times. Following its pilot phase, SEP’s first home was Kings College London, moving to the Institute of Education in 2005 and then to Middlesex University in 2007. In late 2011 SEP moved again, to its final home at the National STEM Centre in York. All the SEP resources have been transferred to the Centre’s website. In this way we can ensure SEP resources will be available free-of-charge for as long as teachers find them useful.


We supported the Physics Enhancement Programme (PEP) to increase the number of physics specialists entering teaching. The Programme enabled recruitment of those with different degrees by offering intensive physics courses before initial teacher teaching.

PEP was a joint initiative between Gatsby, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) and the Institute of Physics (IOP).  It began as a small pilot scheme in 2004 aiming to increase the number of specialist physics teachers by enabling recruitment to physics teaching from a wider range of degree subjects.  It did this by running an intensive six-month course in physics subject knowledge for people to complete prior to entering traditional teacher training.

Participants were also provided with additional support during their training and first two years of teaching.  The support included mentoring by experienced physics teachers; Saturday workshops focusing on a variety of physics teaching activities; places at national professional development conferences; free membership of The Association of Science Education and the IOP; and online resources via the "Teaching Advanced Physics" website.

In 2007 more than 140 new physics teachers started their training through PEP.  They represented a quarter of all the new specialist physics trainees beginning training that year.

The intensive course now forms part of a wider government funded programme of Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses covering maths, physics and chemistry, and delivered nationwide.  A record number of physics specialists entered initial teacher training in September 2012.  A significant number of these could not have accessed the training without first completing an SKE course.

The success of the mentoring component of PEP and a similar initiative supported by Gatsby for existing physics and chemistry teachers led to the recommendation that a mentoring programme be made available to all new maths and science teachers. The government funded pilot recently finished and mentoring support for physics teachers is now available through the IOP's Stimulating Physics programme.

Although formal Gatsby mentoring support has now drawn to a close, we continue to work with the IOP to support trainee and newly qualified teachers through initiatives such as the "Learning to Teach Physics" pages and dedicated newsletter on the IOP website.

Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP)

We created the Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP) in 2002 to develop a framework for effective teaching drawn from academic research and best practice. In 2010, the SSAT (The Schools Network) became the custodians of TEEP. Since its inception the programme has grown steadily in terms of the numbers of staff trained and the variety of training models offered.

TEEP has been instrumental in supporting individual teachers, trainee teachers, departments, whole schools and local authorities to improve classroom practice. It is a proven, well regarded and successful model which focuses on effective learner and teacher behaviours.

Independent evaluations have been carried out by Warwick University, York University and London Institute, highlighting the merits of the programme. All three reports conclude that the training positively transformed the way teachers behaved in the classroom. They describe increased engagement of pupils in their learning, improved behaviour in lessons, increase in active learning by pupils, increase in higher level thinking and improved attainment amongst their findings.

Mentoring Support for new teachers

We have supported mentoring programmes for new physics and chemistry teachers, focusing on those teachers who are the only specialist in their schools. We have also commissioned evaluations of mentoring programmes for maths and science teachers.

Over the last ten years we have worked with the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the Royal Society of Chemistry to support new physics and chemistry teachers.  In particular, we have focused our support on those who may be the only subject specialist in their schools.

Gatsby supported new teachers who did not have a physics or chemistry degree and provided additional subject support and mentoring for up to three years.  The mentors provided both in-school and email support, helping teachers plan and develop new schemes of work and deliver new course material.

We have also commissioned Sheffield Hallam University to undertake an independent evaluation of mentoring programmes available for maths and science teachers, including those funded by Gatsby, the IOP and government. The research report and its summary show that external mentoring is extremely valuable for both teachers and their students.

The key benefits, as found by Sheffield Hallam, are:

  • Compensates for limitations of existing (e.g. subject-specific) support;
  • Reassurance of having someone to turn to;
  • More reflective practice;
  • More practical work / reduced reliance on textbook;
  • More interesting lessons;
  • More confident about subject knowledge and pedagogy;
  • Increased enjoyment of teaching;
  • Reduced anxiety and stress;
  • Enhanced teacher retention;
  • Teaching more accessible to pupils;
  • Increased pupil understanding and learning.

Science in Schools