‘Teachers can change things’: tackling the maths and science shortage

If a teacher hadn’t encouraged her, Yvonne Baker might never have gone into engineering: “She inspired me at a time when it was unheard for girls to consider it.” The Guardian reports.

Baker’s glad she made that choice – as a chartered chemical engineer, she now leads efforts to persuade people to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Worried about a lack of maths and physics teachers, the government is focusing on finding more and hanging on to them, with a new recruitment and retention strategy launched this year. This supports teachers and offers flexible working. With phased bonuses of up to £10,000, the government hopes to encourage maths teachers to stay on after training – in total, £406m is being invested specifically on maths, digital and technical education.

“I wouldn’t leave now if you paid me,” says science teacher, Helen Staton, who teaches biology and science in Southampton, Hampshire. She joined via Teach First, a charity that focuses on recruiting for shortage subjects, in 2016. “For me, it’s about teaching what science actually is,” says Staton. “Kids don’t understand the amazing careers available.”

But there aren’t enough teachers like Staton. Just half of maths and physics teachers stay on in state schools beyond five years – that’s worse than the overall retention rate of 60%, a 2018 report from the Education Policy Institute shows.

Since 2010, the number of girls taking Stem A-levels has risen 26%, and in the latest intake the government recruited 5,900 science and maths trainees – up 500 from the previous year. Entries to GCSE computer science are rising faster than for any other subject.

Engineering companies have a role to play, too, says Baker. And a scheme to bring in teachers to summer work placements has been successful. “It helps when you can say: ‘I met a person who did this,’” says Morgan. Teachers are also more likely to stay if their skills are boosted by training – and Stem Learning’s subject-specific development makes it 160% more likely that science teachers will remain in their profession.

Read more ‘Teachers can change things’: tackling the maths and science shortage 

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