Physics teacher recruitment has fallen yet again – it’s time for action

30 November 2018 Jenni French

The results of the annual Initial Teacher Training Census have been released, and they don’t paint a pretty picture. Figures for the academic year of 2018-2019, England, indicate that recruitment for specialist physics teachers has fallen yet again and is performing comparably worse than recruitment for other subjects.

Physics teacher recruitment has fallen yet again – it’s time for action

For instance, in contrast to Biology which recruited 153% of its target, Physics only recruited 47%.

In addition, the ITT Census figures also indicate that Physics has the 2nd highest percentage of non-UK national trainees after Modern Foreign Languages.

Considered alongside the fact that physics teachers are more likely to leave teaching careers, in part because of better pay and conditions in alternative professions, decisive action to recruit and retain physics teachers seems the only sensible course of action.

Our research indicates that pay incentives for early-career physics specialist teachers could significantly increase the retention of shortage subject teachers. Author and researcher of the report, Sam Sims, says: “The simulation in this research shows that a salary supplement policy would have eliminated the teacher shortage, and at a lower cost than simply recruiting more teachers.”

It is simply not possible for government to recruit enough physics teachers to fill all the vacancies, so retention of those already in the classroom is vital. As such, Sims, elaborates by stating: “An effective and sustainable course of action would be for government to increase the pay of shortage-subject teachers directly.”

It is important that we act now to redouble efforts to recruit, train, and retain specialist physics teachers to teach at our secondary schools. If not, we could restrict the educational opportunities of young people in sciences for years to come.

For more information about Gatsby’s work in Teacher Recruitment and Retention, please visit: 

Physics teacher recruitment has fallen yet again – it’s time for action