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Teaching capacity

Teachers and teaching

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. This is a significant challenge given the persistent struggle to meet teacher training recruitment targets, poor rates of teacher retention, and a secondary school pupil population that is projected to increase 15% between now and 2026.


As the Royal Society’s first ‘state of the nation’ report of 2007 showed, there has been a persistent shortage of science teachers in England, and in other parts of the UK, for decades. In September 2020, the Royal Society produced a policy briefing on teachers of the sciences which reviews the situation regarding recruitment, retention and professional development of science teachers in England in 2020, and points to continuing concerns around all of these matters as well as the need for more precise data on the deployment of subject specialist teachers of the sciences. 

In August 2019, the Royal Society published a policy briefing on teachers of computing. This briefing updates aspects of the 2017 After the reboot: computing education in UK schools report, to provide an overview of current computing provision in schools, focusing on computing teacher workforce supply and development, the uptake of computing in schools and areas for action.

Other activities

  • In September 2018 the Royal Society published a series of 'braided careers' case studies. The Society believes new initiatives are needed to improve teacher supply. The 'braided careers' case studies shed light on the demand for flexible working arrangements within teaching, demonstrate that these can be of benefit to all the parties involved, and suggest that braided careers in teaching could enhance retention.
  • In March 2018, the Royal Society, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Association for Science Education and the Institute of Physics held a seminar examining the latest research on teacher retention.
  • In March 2018, the Royal Society responded to the Department for Education’s consultation on ‘Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and improving career progression for teachers’.
  • In March 2018, the Royal Society published a policy briefing on mathematics teacher supply.
  • In February 2018, the Royal Society published the report of a Symposium on the Future of the Teaching Workforce, which employed futures techniques to consider what the teaching workforce in England might look like in 2030 and to map out broader changes to the education system.
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