Recruitment: Scientists can become class acts

There's never been a better time to switch careers and become a science teacher, says Chris Green

Matt Fox is no ordinary science teacher. Although he now spends his days at St Birinus School in Didcot, Oxfordshire, introducing pupils to the joys of GCSE and A-level physics, his background lies in education of a far more complex nature. The 34-year-old used to be a research scientist in the field of astrophysics at Imperial College, London, and after eight years there – during which he discovered no less than 60 new galaxies – he was all set to become a fully fledged academic.

"I had to make a choice about whether I wanted to become a full-time lecturer at the university," he says. "I'd wanted to be an astrophysicist since I was a child, but as I'd already realised most of my ambitions in that area, I decided I needed a change. A lot of my colleagues found it bizarre, but I genuinely felt that I could make a bigger difference to science in the long term through teaching."

Fox only qualified as a teacher in 2004, after he left Imperial to complete his Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) at a school in Yorkshire. This was an on-the-job training scheme aimed mainly at older students. As he had already had a taste of teaching in his previous job, the GTP suited him better than the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) taken by most new graduates.

"I love teaching because of the immediate feedback you get from the kids," he says. "When they get excited and stay behind to ask questions, you instantly know that you've had a good day. Sometimes the amount of paperwork can get you down, but as long as you love what you do, the kids can't help being dragged along. The more time and effort you put into your teaching, the more you get out of it."

Although Fox is enthusiastic about his new career, figures released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families point to a worrying shortage of fresh science teachers. In the last academic year there were more than 6,200 vacant teaching posts in science and maths across the country: more than half of these were suitable for newly qualified teachers. According to John Connelly, head of recruitment at the Training and Development Agency for Schools, around 3,500 new science teachers need to enter the system every year to replace those who are retiring. But in the current buoyant economic climate, meeting this target is proving difficult.

"The skills that these people have make them some of the most employable people in the country," says Connelly. "There's a huge demand for them at the moment due to the rise of hi-tech industries, so we have to compete against employers from many other areas. Although the number of people going into teaching has increased enormously in the last few years, filling all of the job vacancies can still be challenging."

For this very reason, anyone who has ever considered a career in science teaching would be hard pressed to find a better time to qualify than right now. Not only will your services be in great demand as soon as you leave your course, there are now more ways to gain qualified teacher status than ever before: and if you enrol on an online or distance-learning programme, you can even stay in full-time employment while you study.

The newest of these flexible courses is iTeach, a joint initiative between Canterbury Christ Church University and Hibernia College in Ireland, which launched in April 2007. It was Britain's first fully online teacher training programme, and was aimed at people who want to teach physics, chemistry and maths. The course lasts 18 months, which includes a 14-week placement at a school somewhere in England, and can be taken by people in full-time work. It's proving popular, too: 100 students signed up last year, and this year a further 200 are expected to follow suit.

But iTeach is only one of a number of distance-learning options in teacher training: the Open University offers a flexible PGCE which is taught almost exclusively online, and can be completed in just over a year if taken full-time. Steve Hutchinson, director of the university's PGCE courses, argues that training to be a science teacher now could prove to be a wise move in the long term.

"There's an immense shortage of people with these kinds of skills," he says. "If you're a bright and charismatic chemist or physicist, the world's your oyster: most schools will jump at the chance to take you on. And for people equipped with these skills, moving into teaching is a really good thing to do, because they'll make very fast progress."

Advice on teacher training

Train to Teach, a recruitment event offering information on the various routes into the profession, will take place at the Science Museum in London on 14 and 15 March. Plenty of teachers will be hand to share their experiences. Visit www.tda.gov.uk to register.

Potential science teachers can enrol at any time for the PGCE courses offered by the Open University. Visit www.open.ac.uk.

There are still places left on the iTeach course, which begins in April. Visit www.iteach.ac.uk.

Anyone interested in training to become a science teacher can call the Teaching Information Line on 0845 6000 991; or visit www.teach.gov.uk.

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Sport
bottom
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee