The shortage of specialist physics teachers in the classroom continues to be a significant concern.
Gatsby recognises that to achieve our ambitions regarding the supply of STEM skills to the UK workforce, we must ensure that young people are taught by well-qualified and motivated specialists.
School science is not only important in its own right, but as a gateway to a wide range of STEM subjects including engineering. Limiting the number of pupils taking science qualifications at school will reduce the level of STEM skills in the UK, causing both skills shortages and a negative effect on the economy.
We have a long legacy of supporting science in secondary schools and colleges; from piloting new approaches to teacher recruitment and professional development, to supporting initiatives which encourage innovation and engaging practical activity in science lessons and STEM clubs.
The shortage of specialist physics teachers in the classroom continues to be a significant concern. Evidence from the National Audit Office showed that in 2016 more than a third of physics lessons were taught by teachers without a relevant post A-level qualification. The government’s initial teacher training target for physics has never been met, and yet it continues to grow as physics teachers leave the profession at a greater rate than teachers of other subjects. In order to ensure that all pupils are taught by well-qualified specialist teachers, it is vital that we not only recruit sufficient teachers, but also ensure they remain in the classroom.
Over the last fifteen years Gatsby has undertaken a substantial programme of work designed to recruit and retain high-quality physics teachers. Between 2005 and 2009, we commissioned Professor Alan Smithers and Dr. Pamela Robinson at the University of Buckingham to produce six reports, each examining a different aspect of physics education. The reports proved influential - sometimes significantly so - particularly in ensuring the issue of physics teacher supply remained high on the agenda of politicians and opinion formers.
Our work has included: piloting subject knowledge enhancement courses for both those entering initial teacher education and for serving teachers; designing mentoring programmes to support newly qualified teachers; supporting teacher training institutions with their marketing programmes and creating innovative routes into teacher training for those with non-traditional backgrounds.
One of our most recent reports looks at science teacher recruitment in schools in 2016 and 2017 and suggests that there are substantial inequalities in the system with certain types of schools are much more likely than others to seek specialist teachers.
Please visit the reports box in the sidebar to read and download our latest reports.
Other related programmes
Good Practical Science
We are committed to supporting practical science in schools and colleges. In September 2017 we launched Good Practical Science by Sir John Holman. The report provides a framework for good practical science in schools. Using international visits, surveys and literature reviews, we’ve developed a series of ten benchmarks for schools to use when planning their own approach to delivering practical science.
Initiatives and Partnerships
Over the years a number of Gatsby-supported programmes have resulted in successful large-scale national initiatives. Through carefully selected partnerships, we aim to deliver lasting outcomes in improved STEM education.
Increasing pay of early-career shortage-subject teachers key to averting retention crisis
- Datalab Education report commissioned by the Gatsby Foundation, indicates paying early-career science and maths teachers a 5% salary supplement would eliminate the teacher shortage for these subjects in English Secondary schools.
Latest Gatsby report indicates substantial inequalities in the nationwide advertisement for specialist teachers
Findings of a new report published today indicate that certain types of schools and certain areas of the country are not advertising for specialist biology, physics and chemistry teachers.