Physics fails to make the grade in our classrooms

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The study of physics in schools and universities is in crisis because a shortage of well-qualified specialist teachers has subjected pupils to boring lessons, academics warned yesterday.

The number of A-Level exam entries in the subject halved since 1982, education specialists at the University of Buckingham found.

Just over 3.8 per cent of 16-year-olds took A-Level physics in 2004 compared with about six per cent in 1990. And one in four universities that previously had significant numbers of undergraduates studying physics have stopped teaching the subject since 1994, they said.

Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, who wrote the report, warned the problem was likely to get worse as fewer physics graduates were training to teach the subject in schools.

Physics lessons are increasingly likely to be taught by a non-physicist. Professor Smithers said: "Physics is in the grip of a long-term downward spiral."