News and opinion

News article

How Future Teaching Scholars can address the STEM gender imbalance

25 October 2017

If the gender balance of tomorrow's maths and physics teachers from the Future Teaching Scholars programme is anything to go by, more women than men could enter into maths- or physics-related careers in the future.

On behalf of the Department for Education, we have been running the Future Teaching Scholars programme in England since 2015. A new route into teaching for passionate maths and physics students, we are working to create a new generation of highly skilled teachers who are passionate about transferring their love of maths and physics to their pupils. With the training of our second cohort underway, who are our maths and physics teachers of the future and what role will they play in helping to address the gender imbalance?

Positive role models

Over the two cohorts – a total of 178 scholars – some 57 per cent of them are female and of 416 total applicants, 53 per cent were female. 'We are really excited to see this gender split in our programme,' comments programme director, Richard Churches. 'We take on the majority of our scholars as post-A-level school leavers and these figures demonstrate how far we have come – lots of talented young women are clearly choosing to study maths and physics at A level. By ensuring that more than half of our maths and physics teachers are female, we are setting a positive role model for future generations in these subjects.'

The programme's objective is to make teaching an attractive option for talented mathematicians and physicists. The first three years of the 6-year cycle will be the scholar's undergraduate degree during which time the candidate receives a grant of £15,000 to support their studies. This is followed by a year of initial teacher training (ITT) continuing with one-to-one assistance to find a first teaching role. Scholars then go on to receive a further two years of support as a newly qualified teacher.

'While we recruit the majority of scholars as school leavers, we have found that the programme is also attractive to high calibre mature students – those wanting a career change and who have valuable skills and experience to share,’ continues Richard. ‘We want the programme to appeal not only to school leavers by also to men or women looking for a career change or to women looking to return to work.'

Learn about teaching while studying

Mother of two, Victoria, is one such scholar and shares her story: 'Before applying to university this year, I was a stay-at-home mum. Since my maternity leave began, however, I missed using my intellect – it is patience which is the most practised skill in raising small children, differentiation doesn't help. I committed to applying to full-time university to do maths, with a view that I would then apply to do a PGCE or salaried ITT year once I graduated. It was actually after I had applied to university that I discovered the Future Teaching Scholars programme[…] Here was an opportunity to learn more about teaching while I was studying.

'I have barely scratched the surface of the programme yet, but already I am excited[…] The grant is also useful – for me, it eases the financial pressure of a big childcare bill while I study. It’s nice to go to university knowing the purpose of my degree at the end of it – I’ve barely started my degree but I’m working towards a successful career already.'

Find out more about the Future Teaching Scholars programme (opens in a new window).