Teaching capacity

The Royal Society is focused on helping to ensure there is a thriving teaching profession in the UK, particularly a sufficient supply of subject specialist teachers of the sciences, mathematics and computing.

"Teachers of the sciences are more likely to leave the profession than teachers of most other subjects. Poor rates of teacher retention effectively intensify the pressure on recruitment into teacher training and disrupt children’s education."

Royal Society policy briefing on teachers of the sciences

The importance and value of teachers

Teachers are entrusted with the enormous responsibility of inspiring and developing young people, and thereby preparing them for their future lives beyond the school or college classroom. Education systems must have sufficient highly skilled and motivated teachers if they are to achieve this result. This in turn requires adequate teaching capacity, working conditions that help to ensure teaching offers an attractive and rewarding career, and that the profession enjoys the respect and recognition it deserves.

The Royal Society is focused on helping to ensure there is a thriving teaching profession in the UK, particularly a sufficient supply of subject specialist teachers of the sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), mathematics and computing. At present, this is a significant challenge given the struggle to meet teacher training recruitment targets, the low rates of teacher retention, and the increase in secondary school pupil population. 

Teaching capacity challenges and solutions

Over many years of working in this field, the Royal Society has identified several main challenges which have persisted. These challenges are outlined below, alongside quotations from some of our key publications. As part of our work, we try to influence positive changes in these areas. 

 A timeline of the Royal Society’s publication on teaching capacity 

Some of our key publications in the past five years are outlined in the timeline below.

2021: Ahead of the Autumn budget and spending review we produced this report, which recommended government investment to renew and improve the CPD infrastructure for science teachers, to ensure that all our young people can receive a great science education and contribute to a research and innovation driven economy. 

2020: Our policy briefing on teachers of the sciences reviews the situation regarding recruitment, retention and professional development of science teachers in England. It points to continuing concerns on the issues raised nearly 15 years previously, and also argues that there more precise data on the deployment of subject specialist teachers in the sciences is required.

2019: The Royal Society publishes a policy briefing on teachers of computing.

2018: The Royal Society publishes a series of 'braided careers' case studies, which shows how flexible working arrangements within teaching can benefit all parties, and lead to enhanced retention. We also responded to the Department for Education’s consultation on ‘Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and improving career progression for teachers’ and published Symposium on the Future of the Teaching Workforce, which considered what the teaching workforce in England might look like in 2030. We also published a policy briefing on mathematics teacher supply.

2017: Our report entitled After the reboot: computing education in UK schools provides an overview of computing provision in schools, focusing on computing teacher workforce supply and development, the uptake of computing in schools and areas for action.