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Where are all the physics teachers?

By Hamish Johnston

The British media were talking about physics today, and I’m afraid the news wasn’t good.

The BBC was reporting on a study on the state of physics teaching in England by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University Of Buckingham.

Robinson and Smithers found that in 2007 just 12% of scientists accepted on teacher training programmes were trained as physicists — down from 30% in 1983. If this trend continues, it could be very difficult for the government to hit its target of having 25% of all science teachers specialising in physics by 2014.

The decline in physics teachers has meant that many education authorities have opted for “general science” teachers who cover biology and chemistry as well as physics. Indeed, the researchers found that half the schools in inner London have no teachers specialising in physics.

However, all is not gloom and doom for teaching physics in England. Last week we had our summer company meeting and Bob Kirby-Harris, chief executive, the Institute of Physics (which owns the company that publishes told us about how the organization was tackling the problem. The IOP has set up the Physics Enhancement Project, which aims to boost the physics expertise of trainee science teachers who don’t have formal qualifications in physics.

Most of our readers are outside of the England, so please let us know about the state of physics teaching where you are.

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  1. William R. Folks, Ph.D.

    I possess a Ph.D. in physics and work in industry in the US. I am considering a career transition, and would be willing to accept a position in another English speaking country. If you have any advice or are aware available positions, please email me.

  2. g

    I’m trying to do that students assoicates scheme to find out if teaching is for me (I’m 3rd yr BSc phys). the gov pays out 600 pounds on completion, and 300 to the school, which isnt the only reason I’m interested, although it is a motivating factor.
    Well, every single school so far have been totally unsupportive of the scheme, and I cant find a place! I might be interested in teaching in this subject, yet the very people I should be getting support off are not helping at all.
    Maybe the gov should have worked much more closely with the schools to make sure they are willing to take people on the scheme! Maybe they should consider paying the 300 (or more) directly to the member of school staff who acts as mentor (usually head of depatment).
    If I can’t find a place on the scheme (an opportunity to try teaching before embarking on a PGCE), then it wont be feasible for me to consider teaching unfortunatly.

  3. Hi Hamish, a very informative post. Physics Enhancement Project is a highly interesting opportunity to enhance the number of Physics teachers. The condition as of now seems to be awful like Michael and Dr. Farooqui suggested. Thus new avenues have to be found out to find a solution to this growing problem. By the way, i came across these excellent physics flashcards. Its also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!!

  4. m linington

    Why not try Physics Enhancement course for trainee teachers at UEL.. its fudned, has a bursay and this year (2011)we have heard that ‘ TDA can give assurance that it will fund the ITT course for any trainee who embarks on a SKE course (greater than 4 units) in AY2010/11.’

  5. Good post. I am dealing with a few of these issues as

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