They'll pay you to get physical

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Teachers should be offered cash to retrain in chemistry and physics, ministers will announce today

TEACHERS ARE set to get a golden carrot to retrain in physics and chemistry, as the Government fights critical shortages in science subjects.

And they need not necessarily be biology or general science teachers: any teacher who has some science background could be considered for the cash payment and a new accredited qualification.

The pay incentives are part of a package of advice to government from the School Teachers' Review Body, due to be announced today.

While the Government has not asked the review body to specify the size of the inducement, the headline figure would have to be in the thousands to entice people.

Schools would not be compensated for salaries paid to teachers while they take time off to retrain, despite urgent calls from school employment specialists to ease the burden on staffing budgets.

The Government has emphasised the importance of science to Britain's 21st century economy, and has thrown pound;30 million at encouraging school science - but with only limited success.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, is expected to call on schools to use existing wriggle-room in teachers' pay scales to woo science and maths teachers.

Reports say that recruiting new science teachers will not be enough, on its own to fill the hole, which is why the Government is looking to retrain working teachers.

The Department for Education and Skills estimates that it would take a year for teachers to retrain, part-time, to teach secondary school physics and chemistry.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools is inviting tenders this month for a pilot scheme to train teachers without chemistry or physics qualifications to offer the subjects. It proposes to offer six courses to 150 participants nationally, starting this year.

The Association for Science Education welcomed the Government's apparent willingness to put its money where its mouth is in addressing the skills shortage.

The Government has already agreed to pay pound;9,000 bursaries to science and maths trainee teachers. They can expect to receive an additional pound;5,000 payment when they enter the classroom.

The department would not discuss the review body's recommendations, but did say that increasing the number of British scientists was a priority. And progress was being made: last year the number of science, maths and technology classroom vacancies was at a five-year low.

The review body is also expected to recommend that part-time teachers be paid commensurately with full-timers, which would cost schools an estimated Pounds 46 million. Most part-timers are women and their poor level of pay has been criticised as discriminatory.

The review body has been asked about abandoning special educational needs allowances for teachers, but is expected to advise ministers to wait until the implications have been fully examined.

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