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CaSE sets targets for science teacher recruitment

Reacting to the shortage of physics, chemistry and mathematics teachers in the UK's secondary schools, the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CaSE) has made a number of recommendations and set targets for the Government. The shortage of specialist teachers (tho...

Reacting to the shortage of physics, chemistry and mathematics teachers in the UK's secondary schools, the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CaSE) has made a number of recommendations and set targets for the Government. The shortage of specialist teachers (those with a degree or additional teacher training in the subject) in the UK is not equal across disciplines. Some 44% of science teachers are biologists, 25% are chemists, and 19% are physicists. Only 76% of mathematics teachers are specialists. The shortage of physics teachers means that a quarter of all schools have no specialist teachers. 'Frankly, we're tired of complaining that 25% of schools do not have any physics teacher, and there are worrying shortages in chemistry and mathematics too. A million children are being taught physics by people who are not physics teachers. It's not fair on the children, it's not fair on the teachers and it's bad for the country,' says CaSE Assistant Director Hilary Leevers. 'The declining uptake of physics and chemistry observed in the UK seems to reflect a societal shift, and cross-cultural data suggest a certain inevitability to this. However, an apparently terminal decline in interest in further mathematics in the UK has been rapidly reversed following proactive intervention,' states a CaSE report. CaSE envisages such intervention as the setting of subject-specific targets for chemistry, physics and mathematics recruits to teacher training courses. Headteachers should be encouraged to make greater use of existing flexibilities in remuneration to recruit teachers for 'problem' subjects. Recruiting more support staff and technicians (and making this an attractive career option) may help schools to retain science teachers, and would also enable the teachers that are currently providing science lessons to give more practical classes. CaSE sets a number of targets for the UK Government. It calls for a step-up in recruitment, re-training and retention so that, by 2014: - 25% of science teachers have a physics specialism (currently 19%); - 31% of science teachers have a chemistry specialism (currently 25%); - 95% of mathematics lessons are delivered by a specialist (currently 88%).