Thousands of teachers will be trained in maths, science and technology as part of a major drive led by David Cameron to boost attainment in the subjects. The prime minister announced that around 15,000 teachers will be retrained as specialists in the three disciplines, while a further 2,500 will be recruited on top of existing plans over the course of the next Parliament. School leavers will be offered a substantial amount of cash towards university costs in return for becoming a teacher once they graduate in maths or physics, as part of the £67m programme announced today.
A national college for digital skills will also be set up in London next year with outposts then expected across the country. The prime minister hosted a digital event at Downing Street today to mark the start of the Hour of Code campaign to encourage people to learn computer coding skills. He said: "There's no secret to success in the modern world. If countries are going to win in the global race and children compete and get the best jobs, you need mathematicians and scientists - pure and simple. So today, we commit to deliver more maths and science teachers. "This is all part of our long-term economic plan for Britain – making sure our children have the skills they need to thrive and get on. And by sticking to it, we will lift our children's horizons and pull our country up in the world." Under the plans, specialist training will be given to existing teachers to enhance the way they teach the maths and science, including contact with industry to ensure they are up to speed on the latest developments. Top A-level students will be offered a bursary to help pay for maths and physics degrees if they agree to a career in the classroom. Details of the scheme, which is expected to be ready for pupils applying to go to university next year, have yet to be finalised but could mean students receive around 75 per cent of their course fees, as well as some living costs, in return for a teaching commitment of between five and seven years. Around 5,000 students are expected to pass through the doors of the planned new specialist digital college, which has backing from a range of international companies including Deloitte, Henderson Global Investors and IBM. Children with high maths scores at the age of 10 earn 7 per cent more by the time they reach 30, according to the government. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "For three years in a row, David Cameron's government has missed its own teacher recruitment targets, creating a crisis situation. "Shortfalls in the recruitment of maths and physics teachers are especially concerning."
Dr Frances Saunders, president of the Institute of Physics, welcomed the announcement but added there needed to be a "step-change" in the number of physics teachers recruited.
“In order to ensure that every secondary school student in the UK is taught physics by an appropriately qualified and confident teacher, we need to be recruiting 400 more physics teachers annually: up from approximately 600 to 1,000 new physics teachers every year," Dr Saunders said.
" It will take time to see whether incentives like that announced today have the desired effect over the long term."
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