Scientists are being encouraged to become teachers

Scientists are being encouraged to become teachers

A new initiative linking the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) with employers aims to ease the way for science experts planning teaching as a second career and address the shortage of appropriately qualified science teachers in schools. Many of England's science teachers have not studied science to degree level.  Jim Knight, the schools minister has stated that ""We need companies to encourage career switchers to take the leap and go into teaching. These people can help bring science alive for kids who are in school today - and ensure that more of them decide to take up science as a career. In the long term it can only benefit the UK."  

Arguments that companies may be reluctant to lose their experienced scientists have been countered by a spokeswoman of the Department for Children, Schools and Families who stated that the programme might suit someone seeking early retirement from the science industry and that human resource departments might put such a person in touch with the Transition to Teaching programme, to be launched in the spring. Firms including IT giant Cisco, pharmaceuticals company Astra Zeneca and BT have already signed up for the programme and the chief executive of IBM UK has been appointed  to head up a committee to design a programme to help graduates with science and maths degrees to go into teaching as a second career. This initiative can also be seen in terms of business sponsorship for social entrepreneur activity.

Evidence gathered by the TDA has found that one in four 45-50 year olds planning to explore a new career (23 per cent) now have their sights set on teaching, while more than 580,000 nationally now feel that teaching is a career they may pursue. Many mature candidates considering moving into the classroom have expressed an interest in teaching the harder-to-recruit subjects of physics (16 per cent) and maths (18 per cent).

Recent government-funded research suggested that one in four science teachers was not a specialist.  The study by the National Foundation for Educational Research into the teaching of maths and science found both had problems of staff recruitment.

Shortages of well-qualified maths and science teachers were worst in schools with low GCSE scores and those serving the poorest children. Problems were found to be worst in low-performing schools and in areas where scientists and mathematicians could earn good salaries outside teaching.

The president of the Royal Society, Lord Rees, said: "This report reveals a disappointing number of teachers with a specialism in the subjects that need it most."

The Government currently has a target that by 2014, 25 per cent of science teachers have a physics specialism (compared to 19 per cent currently) and 31 per cent of science teachers have a chemistry specialism (compared to 25 per cent currently). There is also a target for 95 per cent of maths lessons to be taught by maths specialists.

In the recent Children's Plan the Government announced plans to make teaching a Masters level profession with all new teachers able to study for an extra qualification through a focus on continued professional development.

Soon Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, will launch a new communications campaign to encourage young people to study "STEM" subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - at GCSE and A level. The campaign will also target parents.

Currently, the government strategy is focused on three areas:

Recruitment - Continuing to pay the teacher training bursary for maths and science (£9,000) and the golden hello (£5,000); giving additional £1,000 payments to ITT providers for each physics or chemistry trainee teacher they recruit; offering additional courses to enhance physics, chemistry and maths subject skills for those entering teaching who do not have a recent degree in the subject; expanding the student associate scheme to give science and maths undergraduates a taste of teaching with a view to encouraging them to pursue teaching as their career.

Retraining - TDA is piloting accredited courses to give teachers an additional specialism in physics, chemistry or maths. Subject to the pilot outcomes and the CSR settlement, they plan to roll the courses out nationally.

Retention - planning to encourage schools to improve the use of current pay incentives and flexibilities; recruiting, training and supporting a cadre of science or maths specialist Higher Level Teaching Assistants so that every secondary school in England that wants one can recruit at least one by 2007/08. 
The PISA study on 14 year olds attitudes to science found:

In terms of English teenagers' views about the use of science:

75 per cent agreed that they study science because they know it is useful for them.
71 per cent agreed that making an effort in science subjects is worth it because this will help them in the work they want to do later on.
71 per cent agreed that studying science subjects is worthwhile for them because what they learn will improve their career prospects.
54 per cent agreed that what they learn in their science subjects is important for them because they need this for what they want to study later on.


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Mike Blamires

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Blamires, Mike, TDA



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