Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced a £2m-a-year partnership between the Department for Education and the Institute of Physics (IOP) to attract the best graduates to become physics teachers.
Around 100 scholarships worth £20,000 each will be available every year for graduates with a 2:1 or first class degree who are intending to do a mainstream physics, or physics with mathematics and Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course.
IOP research shows that around 1,000 new specialist physics teachers in England are needed every year for the next 15 years to plug the gap so that the subject is taught by specialist teachers. Last year, around 275 fewer trainees were recruited to physics initial teacher training courses than were needed.
"If we want to have an education system that ranks with the best in the world, we must attract outstanding people into the profession, and we must give them outstanding training. The scholarship will help make sure we have excellent physics teachers in this country with deep subject knowledge," said Gove in a statement.
Welcoming the government's move, Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at the Institute of Physics, said these scholarships would help the Institute realise its aims of welcoming a greater number of physics teachers into the broader community of physicists and of increasing the spread of subject expertise in education.
"They will help us to develop excellent teachers from excellent graduates. We are saying to people with a love of physics and a good academic record - 'choose teaching: it is a job that will reward you and exploit your abilities to the full'," Peter added.
The IOP will work with experts in teaching practice to award scholarships. They will hand-pick candidates demonstrating exceptional subject knowledge, enthusiasm for the study of physics, and outstanding potential to teach. The IOP's relationship with the scholars will continue into their teaching careers.
Commenting on the government initiative, renowned physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili said: "Being a research physicist and a well-known physics broadcaster and author is all well and good but the really valuable work needed to inspire future generations of physicists is done by physics teachers in the classroom. Every day teachers are communicating the beauty of the subject and the satisfaction that an understanding of physics can give you."