The teacher training quango has managed to massage the teacher recruitment figures to disguise the shortage of physics teachers in schools, by failing to set a target for their recruitment. The TDA reported that “for the first time ever” recruitment to all main specialisms has exceeded their targets and that “a healthy supply of well-trained teachers is entering our classrooms.”
The total number of mainstream registrations of Science teachers did indeed rise, by 1%, from 3655 last year to 3701, although to claim that the target of just 3405 was exceeded “by as much as 9%” seems to be over-egging the results a little.
The key omission, though, is that there is no target for physics teachers at all! Their numbers declined from 584 last year to an estimated 571. Bang goes the government target of having physicists making up a quarter of all science teachers by 2012. With a quarter of current physics teachers already over 50 and keen to retire, this target looks as far away as ever.
(See here and here for my previous comments on physics teacher shortages and the solutions, and on Gordon Brown's pontifications here.)
The Conservatives, though, look like they at least recognise the seriousness of the problem.
In a speech to the Sir John Cass Foundation, Michael Gove said
“We will make a new offer to people - similar to something President Obama wants to do. If after leaving school someone decides to do a maths or science degree at a designated university, achieves a 2:1 or First, and decides to go into teaching, the taxpayer will cover their student loan repayments for as long as they remain in teaching (until the loan is fully paid).”This could be worth £40k to a teacher whose pay cannot otherwise be increased beyond that offered to other, less scarce, specialisms.
The Institute of Physics has welcomed the initiative, noting that that
“Children in approximately 500 secondary schools across the country have no teachers with experience of physics beyond school.
“This means too many students being taught physics by teachers who may not even have taken the subject at A-level. How can students be inspired by teachers who themselves have no solid grasp of the subject?