Solving the STEM shortage: CPD improves science teacher retention

New research shows that continuing professional development (CPD) can play a significant role in retaining science teachers and improving science education.

Commissioned by Wellcome and carried out by Education Datalab, the research found that science teachers who participate in CPD courses through STEM Learning are much more likely to remain in teaching. One in 12 teachers who did not participate in STEM Learning CPD left teaching in the following year. This changes to 1 in 30 for those who did, when other factors (such as age and gender) are taken into account, increasing the odds of remaining by 160 per cent.

With an already severe shortage of science teachers in England, the analysis also shows that they are more likely to leave the profession than their non-science peers. This is especially true of those who are newly qualified, with six out of ten leaving within the first five years. Newly qualified teachers with physics or engineering degrees are the most affected.

STEM Learning provides high quality, subject-specific CPD for science teachers and technicians across the UK that already has proven impact on teachers and their students. This research further demonstrates that those who participate in CPD stay in teaching longer, leading to better trained and more experienced science teachers. The association between participating in CPD and improved retention held when demographic, science department and school factors are taken into account.

Dr Rebecca Allen, Director of Education Datalab and one of the report authors, said: “Teachers often say they would like more subject-specific training that can deepen their subject knowledge and improve their teaching skills at the same time. This new research suggests that science-specific professional development keeps more science teachers in the classroom, and can therefore also help address the chronic shortage of science teachers in England.”

Wellcome believes that all science teachers should regularly participate in high-quality, subject-specific CPD throughout their careers. Wellcome has been funding Project ENTHUSE since 2008 to provide bursaries for CPD for science teachers and technicians.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning at Wellcome, said: “We want all young people to experience high-quality science education and this simply isn’t possible without well trained, specialist science teachers. Most school leaders already recognise that high quality CPD leads to more engaging and effective teaching, but this research shows that it helps to keep them in the profession too. This makes a powerful case for school leaders and governors to prioritise this for their science teachers.”

Yvonne Baker, Chief Executive of STEM Learning, added: "We are delighted by the findings of this new report, which shows clearly that teachers who eengage with our CPD are much more likely to stay in the profession. This important research comes at a time of increasing concern over teacher recruitment and retention – particularly in the strategically important STEM subjects. I hope it will encourage those engaged in educational leadership – at school, college or national level – to ensure teachers get access to the career-long CPD they need and all young people get the world-class science education they deserve.”

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