Poor timetabling wastes physics teaching resources

4th April 1997 at 01:00
Jim Breithhaupt (TES, March 7) has drawn attention to a worrying trend in the uptake of A-level physics and points the blame at the introduction of GCSE double-certificate science.

It is true that the physics content of these courses is necessarily lower than single-subject science, but then A-level physics has been similarly pared down. Perhaps he should ask the question: who is teaching our GCSE students? In my experience many pupils in state schools are being taught physics by teachers who have neither the knowledge, interest nor understanding of the concepts of what is undoubtedly a difficult subject.

It is true that this situation has been forced on some schools by a lack of physics graduates in the profession, but I have worked in many departments where double-award GCSE is taught by one teacher even though there are enough specialists to share the load.

In one well-known London comprehensive, when I questioned the head of science he told me that science teachers leave their postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) courses equipped to teach all sciences to GCSE standard. This is of course nonsense as very little science is taught in a busy one year-course and graduates enter with a wide range of degrees.

Certainly we need to attract more physics graduates into the profession but there are schools who do not use the ones they do have effectively.

A spot of creative timetabling would certainly benefit some departments I have taught in.

TONY BARNETT 89 Parliament Hill Mansions Lissenden Gardens London NW5

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