Teacher recruitment, retention and development

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.

The shortage of specialist physics teachers in the classroom continues to be a significant concern.

School science is important in its own right, but it also acts as a gateway to a wide range of STEM careers, 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.


Our work with physics teachers

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 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 teacher, it is vital that we not only recruit sufficient numbers of 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, particularly in ensuring the issue of physics teacher supply remained high on the agenda of policy makers and opinion formers. 

Our work has included: piloting subject knowledge enhancement courses for 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. This report suggests that there are substantial inequalities in the school system, with certain types of schools much more likely to seek to recruit specialist teachers than others.

Please visit the reports box in the sidebar to read our latest reports.