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Last Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008, 11:55 GMT
Scientists urged back into class
Science and maths expertise is key for economic growth
Ministers want Britain's top IT and science companies to encourage "career switchers" to go into teaching.

Ministers want professional scientists, mathematicians, information technology experts and engineers to help fill the skills gaps in classrooms.

Many of England's science teachers have not studied science to degree level.

A new programme linking the teacher training agency with employers hopes to ease the way for science experts planning teaching as a second career.

We need companies to encourage career switchers to take the leap and go into teaching
Jim Knight
Schools Minister

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "Britain is a world leader in science and engineering - from traditional lab coats to Grand Prix racing and computer games designers.

"We now need this 'best of British' to get into our schools and colleges and bring on the next generation.

"We need companies to encourage career switchers to take the leap and go into teaching.

"These people can help bring science alive for kids who are in school today - and ensure that more of them decide to take up science as a career. In the long term it can only benefit the UK."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman rejected suggestions that employers might be reluctant to lose their staff to another profession.

She said the programme might suit someone seeking early retirement from the science industry.

Industry support

Human resource departments might put such a person in touch with the Transition to Teaching programme, to be launched in the spring.

Head of recruitment at the Training and Development Agency for Schools, John Connolly, said the partnership would benefit potential teachers, pupils, and the science industry in the long term.

"It will enable employers to free up some of their brightest to teach the next generation of scientists and engineers that our businesses will need."

Firms including IT giant Cisco, pharmaceuticals company Astra Zeneca and BT have already signed up for the programme.

Science lesson
Science specialists are more able to bring the subject alive

And the government has appointed the chief executive of IBM UK to head up a committee to design a programme to help graduates with science and maths degrees to go into teaching as a second career.

Recent government-funded research suggested that one in four science teachers was not a specialist.

The issue has drawn criticism from scientific organisations who argue that teachers without specialist training and knowledge often lack the confidence and ability to bring the subject to life.

Currently, just 19% of science teachers in England have a physics specialism and 25% a chemistry specialism - which equates to having studied either subject to degree level.

By 2014 the government wants that proportion to have risen to 25% and 31% respectively.

It also wants 95% of maths lessons to be taught by maths specialists.

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