Institute of Physics calls for every school to have a physics specialist

Following the publication today of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) Report, ‘Educating the next generation of scientists’, the Institute of Physics (IOP) has called for the recruitment of at least one physics specialist in every school science department.

At present, around 500 schools send no students on to do physics A-level. Analysis shows that the shortage of specialist physics teachers – 4000 too few across England – is a direct cause of reduced participation in physics, as students are denied the opportunity to engage constructively with the subject.

Welcoming the NAO’s report, Charles Tracy, Head of Education pre-19 at IOP, said, “One clear cause for the slower increase in the take-up of A-level physics is the shortage of specialist physics teachers in schools across England; this problem is set to get worse: we are still recruiting 400 too few new physics teachers into the profession each year.

“This report reinforces our view that head teachers should be required to have at least one physics specialist on their teaching staff.  Clear incentives – such as student loan repayments for physics graduates who progress to teach physics – need to be laid down to attract more physics graduates into the profession and away from other, often very lucrative, opportunities open to them.

“Those schools with no physics specialists are denying their students important opportunities and the country is wasting potential talent.  This is an issue of national importance and we would like to see it tackled nationally – from two directions: Initial Teacher Education and in-school, subject based professional development for teachers.”

With our partners, IOP has built the Stimulating Physics Network, through which schools that have a specific problem with physics are identified, and providing support to their teachers – many of whom are non-specialist.