PE teachers retraining in maths to fill school gaps

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According to reports from BBC News, secondary schools in England are facing a shortage of math teachers, prompting them to turn to physical education (PE) teachers to fill the gaps. The government’s efforts to recruit new math teacher trainees fell short of its target by 63% this year, raising concerns about future shortages in the education sector.

A recent study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) predicts that 10 out of 17 secondary subjects will struggle to recruit enough trainee teachers next year. This shortage, described as reaching a “critical state,” is attributed to factors such as pay and workload.

To address the shortage, some schools are innovatively retraining experienced PE teachers to teach math. At The Gryphon School in Sherborne, Dorset, PE teacher Jo Gritt is transitioning to teaching math after receiving funding as part of a national program aimed at boosting math teaching. Gritt believes that PE teachers can establish a unique rapport with students and help boost their confidence in math.

Similarly, another PE teacher, Laura Rowe, has embraced the challenge of teaching math to Year 9 students. Both teachers will teach younger students next year, allowing full-time math teachers to focus on older students preparing for exams.

The NFER report highlights the risks associated with using non-specialists to fill teaching gaps across all subjects. Anthony Shaw, head of math at The Gryphon School, acknowledges the importance of subject knowledge in effectively teaching math.

The shortage of math teachers is reflected in the declining number of applicants for teaching positions, especially in subjects like geography, history, and English. Jim Gower, headteacher at The Gryphon School, notes the stark difference in applicant numbers compared to a decade ago.

To address the shortage, some schools are offering innovative solutions, such as flexible work arrangements and competitive salaries. However, the report recommends a pay rise for teachers to attract and retain talent in the education sector.

The Department for Education has responded by offering bursaries and scholarships to incentivize teachers in critical subjects like chemistry, computing, mathematics, and physics. Despite these efforts, concerns remain about the long-term sustainability of the education workforce in England.

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