Despite an improvement in maths and science A-level results it is essential the UK continues to invest in teaching jobs for the subjects if Britain is to maintain its position as a world leader, one expert has said.
While the Labour government's £140 million investment succeeded in putting the breaks on declining maths, physics, chemistry and biology exam results; it is still not enough, according to Sir John Holman.
Writing on the Wellcome Trust website, the Director of the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (stem) Programme said that past investment appears to have paid dividends but it is too early to get complacent.
The number of students taking the traditional A-level subjects is up across the board with physics up six per cent; maths eight per cent; chemistry nine per cent and biology seven per cent.
However, the former Cambridge graduate commented that "too often, mathematics, physics and chemistry are taught by teachers without specialist qualifications.
"The government must intensify the drive to recruit well-qualified teachers in these subjects," he said.
Sir John points to the "Brian Cox factor" in making the subjects cool again while acknowledging that a focus on filling science and maths teaching vacancies with quality staff helped reverse the decline facing the subjects.
Parents are also now more aware of the benefits of stem subjects when it comes to university and then job applications, he wrote.
Yet while government schemes aided by organisations like the Wellcome Trust have helped boost teacher job numbers in stem subjects, Sir John says there is still plenty of work to do.
There still exists a big gender gap in the take-up of stem subjects, with girls making up only one-fifth of the number of those taking the A-levels.
The Nuffield Foundation also reported recently that England, Wales and Northern Ireland are the only countries in the developed world where fewer than 20 per cent of pupils take mathematics to post-16 study, Sir John said.
Posted by Alan Douglas