The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has declared that the UK
… will educate the next generation of world class scientists; and that to do so we will work towards all pupils having access to single subject science teaching - with a guarantee that 90 per cent of all state schools will offer this within the next five years.But, isn't there a national shortage of Physics teachers? I know it is hard to tell since the government stopped recording Physics teacher shortages a few years ago (they do report a 0.9% vacancy rate in science posts, since schools top up with Biology specialists), but the Centre for Education and Employment Research says in this report that a quarter of secondary schools don't have even one Physics teacher.
But, Gordy has a plan! As our industrial base implodes in the recession, all those engineers will be approached, "guaranteed", to train them as Physics and Maths teachers. "Come here my lovelies, teaching is better than the dole!"
After a decade of promising that all the education problems will be solved (remember "education, education, education"?), nearly all school physics departments, where they exist, are still hugely understaffed, more Physics teachers are still leaving than joining schools each year and perhaps 30% are due to retire in the next decade.
Recruiting a few down at heel industrial workers will not even work as a short term fix for the existing problems. There are better ways to tempt Physics qualified people into teaching than simply waiting for companies to go bust (see How to Recruit a Physics Teacher), but the government and unions will never take the necessary step of letting schools compete freely in the jobs market and offer attractive packages for people with shortage skills.