Survey lists top 10 ideas for boosting maths and physics teachers

18 December 2015

The Government should consider paying off student loans for maths and physics graduates who become teachers to encourage more of them into the profession, according to a survey of school and college leaders.

The idea was the most popular option in a questionnaire completed by about 500 members of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) on how to boost the number of maths and physics teachers. The top 10 suggestions, in order of preference, were:

  1. For government: Pay off student loans, or offer partial student loan relief, for maths and physics graduates who become teachers, with payments linked to length of service.

  2. For government: Increase the number of salaried training places in schools for maths and physics teachers.

  3. For government: Work with universities to develop maths and physics degrees which incorporate Qualified Teacher Status and teaching placements into degree.

  4. For government: Increase pay levels for maths and physics teachers, funded by government.

  5. For the profession: Encourage more students to study maths and physics at A level.

  6. For government: Work with universities to create new four-year courses in maths, which incorporate a foundation year for those who did not do maths A level.

  7. For government and the profession: Offer teachers in other subjects the chance to retrain as maths and physics teachers.

  8. For government and the profession: Aim more targeted marketing about careers in teaching at maths and physics undergraduates.

  9. For government: Talk to the national network of maths hubs about what they need to enable them to recruit more teachers.

  10. For the profession: Give A level maths and physics pupils teaching experience by involving them in teaching younger pupils.

The ideas were compiled by ASCL Council’s public and parliamentary committee and ASCL members were then asked to rank them in order of preference. The initiative was launched in response to a pledge in the Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, which said: “We aim to make Britain the best place in the world to study maths, science and engineering, measured by improved performance in the PISA league tables. To help achieve this, we will train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years.”

However, the number of recruits to initial teacher training programmes in maths has failed to meet existing targets for four years in a row and in science for three successive years, equating to a total shortfall of more than 1,700 prospective new teachers in these core subjects. This comes against a background of severe teacher recruitment problems across the country which have left schools struggling to find candidates in maths, science and other subjects.

ASCL President Allan Foulds said: “The Conservatives’ manifesto commitment on maths and physics teacher recruitment is very ambitious and we are putting forward these suggestions to provide some practical ideas in the spirit of being helpful and constructive.

“This is a really challenging issue. It is already very difficult to recruit maths and science teachers and it will become significantly harder over the next few years as demand increases because of a big increase in pupil numbers. At the same time, the Government rightly wants to boost maths and physics teaching to ensure the country is internationally competitive.

“We all have a role to play in meeting this challenge and encouraging more people into the teaching profession. That is why ASCL has taken the initiative to put forward these ideas. Teaching remains a brilliant and fulfilling vocation and this is something that is not said often enough.”

The Government has recently announced increased bursaries for trainee teachers in core subjects such as physics and maths and ASCL has welcomed this move.