After a break that was longer than we had planned due to bike accidents and ridiculous workloads, we are back and raring to go. Although physics teachers raring to go is the problem we discuss this week* with Friend of the Podcast, Senior Lecturer and physics teacher retention guru, Mark Whalley.

Thomas drops the bombshell that he is taking an extended sabbatical from teaching**. Before he fell off his bike (again) and broke three ribs (again) we had planned to speak to Mark about this and it was a pleasure to finally catch up.

Mark has run projects for the IOP around retention (see the link below to “Keep Teaching”) and we ask him the question: what is in a school’s power to prevent Physics Teachers from leaving the profession?

As a school leader what can you do? Well Mark has a few tips

  • Respect teachers’ professionalism: minimise the menial admin istrative tasks they have to carry out.
  • Avoid CPD that is none of those things. Allow physics teachers time to explore their professional practice. It is more challenging for them in isolation.
  • Recognise the extra burden on physics teachers in small departments (often only 1!) and allow extra time for them to support physics teaching in the school (e.g. for non-specialist colleagues).
  • Timetable sympathetically. Nothing annoys scarce physics teachers more than spending large chunks of their time teaching other subjects.

Robin suggests the radical step of breaking the universal pay agreement for shortage subjects… what do you think? Would a pay scale for shortage subjects work, or be more trouble than it’s worth? Share your thoughts on X (Twitter).

With the management challenges facing schools, this issue is lower on the list of SLT priorities than it should be, but perhaps we can change a few things to raise the issue. Mark’s helped us to suggest a few low cost things that perhaps we CAN do.

*I know – we haven’t lost ANY of our slickness…

** He wants to fall off his bike in more exotic locations.


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