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Physics NQT, not teaching much physics

Discussion in 'NQTs and new teachers' started by bexallya, Nov 24, 2016.

  1. bexallya

    bexallya New commenter


    Just needing a bit of a rant, really!

    I'm in my NQT year at a challenging school. I'm female, I have a PhD in physics, and I went into teaching because I was tired of scientific research, and wanted to encourage more girls to get into physics and engineering. I know, I know, having a PhD doesn't automatically make me a good teacher, but it turns out that I'm much better at teaching than I ever was at science!

    There are many problems at my school (no HOD for over 8 months, no SOL for anything, over half the department are NQT/RQTs) but one of the things that gets to me the most is that I'm not really being allowed to teach physics. There is no provision at all for subject specialists to teach their subject. Now, I understand that this is the case for a lot, of schools, but the UK is crying out for physics teachers, especially female ones!

    In addition, I've been given bottom sets for most years, and whilst these kids are, on the whole, interesting to teach (and I like them!) very few of them will be able to, or want to, go on to a career in physics/maths/engineering.

    So, yeah, I was just hoping people could convince me that other schools might actually want to use my experience and background in some way.....
  2. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    Stick with it for now.

    I don't know why you've been given bottom sets most years - it's true many schools do like to keep new teachers away from the top level exam sets, which is understandable. Some schools like to give new teachers / supply teachers all of the lower sets - from my experience the best departments share the classes around fairly. However, it is what it is and it's just your NQT year. Make the most of it, learn what you can and then sell it on your application form. You will find schools willing to take you on willing to trust you with higher sets and where you can help to make a difference in terms of physics take-up, but you have to accept you might have to prove yourself over a few years first. It's worth it.

    Good luck
  3. bexallya

    bexallya New commenter

    Thanks :)
    I suppose if I thought there was a logic to the setting in our school (like she's good at managing behaviour, so low sets, or he's good at stretch/challenge for g&t, so high sets), I'd probably have fewer issues with it. Having checked with the line manager in science, there was no thought at all into who got what.
    But anyway, you're right, it is what it is. I guess it's just not quite what I imagined it would be!
  4. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    You could tough it out in state for a while and maybe look at the Indie sector after a while, you'd only teach your subject then. Quite often in state schools you can be a jack of all trades doing all three, some state schools will have you teaching to your specialism.
    bexallya likes this.
  5. Fizzbobble

    Fizzbobble Occasional commenter

    It is to be expected that your KS3 classes will be phys/chem/bio, but your KS4 and 5 classes should be your specialism. I'm like you; PhD in physics and I have been used as a specialist in state from KS4 up and from Year 7-13 in an indie. Now, I'm out. The indie school was a dream, but the state ones...no thanks. Most schools are crying out for a physicist, of either sex. Get your NQT year under your belt and then think about looking, carefully (be really picky!!) for something more suitable. If you're passionate enough about your subject to get a PhD in it, you'll want to teach A Level Physics and possibly GCSE Astronomy.
    bexallya and sabrinakat like this.
  6. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    In my experience,science teachers teach outside of their specialism throughout ks3 and ks4, and often well into ks5

    You are likely to find much of your time table over the years won't even be in science

    You are always going to find that much of your time is taken up with tasks not even related to teaching!
    bexallya likes this.
  7. Alldone

    Alldone Senior commenter

    Do the year and look for another job. Schools are crying out for Physics teachers. I retired after 28 years in the Independent sector - I taught both Physics and Chemistry at KS3 and KS4, plus A level. Also taught General science to year 7. All the Science teachers taught their specialism up to A level, so no Biology teacher would be asked to teach a Chemistry lesson etc. Have friends who are governors in local State schools. They just cannot get Physics teachers. They have offered jobs where if they could get qualified Physics teachers they would only ever use them for Physics - in fact if they wanted to they could just teach KS4 and A level. I was recently asked to cover at a school for half a term and could pretty much name my own price - turned it down as I had recently done half a term at another Indie school teaching Chemistry - just Chemistry (was a favour for a friend who was the HOD). So I agree with @Moony - do the year and work in the Indie sector - you will be appreciated.
    bexallya likes this.
  8. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    I agree with a lot of the wisdom already posted. Timetabling is a nightmare and you may just have been landed with these particular sets by chance, or by someone not thinking things through for whatever reason. I think you'll find teaching across the three disciplines at KS3 is an interesting and useful approach; I also think that there are other schools out there that will use your skills more effectively. So dig in now, make use of the experience, and be prepared to look elsewhere when the time is ripe and the right opportunity shows up.
    bexallya likes this.
  9. bexallya

    bexallya New commenter

    Hi, thanks for advice. Do you mean you've left teaching completely? What are you doing now (if you don't mind me asking!)? I'm always looking to keep my options open in case the work/life teaching balance gets a bit too much.... Also, how were salary negotiations with the independent school? I've sort of assumed that with a PhD in physics, it would be easier to negotiate, but then again, I might be living in a dream world!
  10. bexallya

    bexallya New commenter

    Hi Alldone,
    Thanks for the advice. Just curious, would you have any advice for doing cover/supply teaching in physics (without an agency)? Is it a case of just knowing the right people, who know you've got experience? I've heard that some schools spend so much on advertising that they're willing to pay more for shortage subject specialists.
    I don't really object to teaching the other subjects per se, just that it seems such a waste. My background knowledge in most areas of biology/chemistry is severely lacking!
  11. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    irrelevant, what subjest you are actually teaching is the least of your job, and the least concern of the people who put together your timetable. You are going to find yourself timetabled to teach subjects you have hardly even heard of, and will be expected to get yourself up to speed in subject knowledge entirely in your own time, purely as an aside to your daily work load.

    the Phd irrelevant too, sorry
  12. Fizzbobble

    Fizzbobble Occasional commenter

    The PhD is not irrelevant; it says something about the passion and interest someone has for a subject. If you have one, generally you like to teach mostly that and/or a closely related subject. It's not an unreasonable thing to pursue. It also opens other doors into related occupations. It certainly has for me, particularly with publishing and stuff. It also allowed me to start further up the payscale, as an NQT, than someone without a further qualification.

    I will PM you about what I do now and salary negotiation.

    I have taught other subjects besides science too. One of them was certainly not my finest hour teaching, because I had no interest or training in it and the department had no resources for me to start from. Hey, that's teaching!
  13. Alldone

    Alldone Senior commenter

    In my neck of the woods schools are desperate for Physics teachers. I would send your CV direct to local schools and see what happens. A friend of mine did a term at a state school only teaching Physics and was paid £240 a day. Was asked by the HT's secretary if he would be interested in teaching GCSE and A level classes in the run up to their exams. I think the bit about knowing the right people certainly helps get jobs - in my case even though I've retired I still get schools asking if I could do some teaching. Was even asked recently if I could just teach the A level practicals at one school. I know that some local state schools have no qualified Physics teachers. I would not worry about teaching other science subjects - any Biology or Chemistry needed for KS3 classes you can easily pick up. I have an English teacher friend who retired a couple of years ago and is now doing a maternity cover at a local Indie school (wife of school's DH is a friend of hers, so was asked if she was interested). She is teaching Y7 to Y9 History - even though she has never taught the subject before.
    As for asking for more - definitely ask - you are worth it and they are lucky to have you,
    bexallya likes this.
  14. Suewan

    Suewan New commenter

    £240 a day? Are you sure? The agency I'm with only pays NQTs £70-£100 a day. That seems very generous.
  15. welshwizard

    welshwizard Established commenter Forum guide

    Don't forget the influence of London weighting!
    Agency daily charges sound good but do remember that they do not include any holiday or sick pay . In addition if a school is filling a long term post then the daily charge may not apply as the finders fee option kicks in so the agency charge the school a percentage of salary and you receive the salary payment.
    Day to day supply can be demanding and often you do end up teaching outside of your subject area
  16. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    In 1968 I did O level Nuffield Physics which had a lot of practical work and I really enjoyed it. At A level it all went sour with the first topic which was optics which concentrated on the maths of small angles of incidence etc etc. The same happened in Chemistry with the need for accurate weighing and meticulous methods. I had a couple of interesting jobs as a lab tech but ended up in computing. Coming back to science as a STEM ambassador I find a whole heap of pseudo science in primary that builds on nothing and goes nowhere - unlike maths which starts with counting, then multiplication, subtraction, division, powers, roots, etc up to algebra and trigonometry etc.
    For me the great thing in physics is exploring its rich and wonderful past, appreciating how brilliant Da Vinci, Gauss, Newton, Faraday, Volta and Tesla were and being able to re-create their ground breaking ideas.
  17. Alldone

    Alldone Senior commenter

    Hi @Suewan Yes that rate was what my friend was paid. The School was a State school (a pretty rough one at that!) and he was paid directly by the school. He had been a Physics HOD for over 30 years before retirement, Chief examiner for one of the A level exam boards so lots of experience. This is not in the London area either. When I did my 6 weeks Chemistry stint in a Private school I was only paid £180 a day, but it was as a favour for a friend so I wasn't too bothered about the money. Plus I probably ate another £10 of food each day, with free lunches etc. The same friend is going to do half a term of Physics at another Private school after Christmas. They are paying £200 a day - less than the State school, but a much nicer school to teach in. So, I do think qualified Physics teachers can ask for Top whack, but it does seem to vary. I'm not sure about NQT rates.
    When I first started teaching a long time ago I came from Industry and as an NQT was near the lower end of the pay scale. But, after one year in my Private school the HT said he wanted to move me to the top the payscale in the next couple of years. In the meantime he paid various extra allowances which pushed it up a bit.
    I never wanted promotion to HOD etc, but when I retired last year my salary was only a couple of hundred a month less than the two HODs I was working for.
    bexallya likes this.
  18. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Sounds like theexperience you're getting will stamd you in very good stead in the future.

    I also teach quite a few low ability sets because the other teacher in my specialism can't.
    bexallya likes this.
  19. zuba102

    zuba102 New commenter

    Stick it out and then maybe try to find a school where they still have specialist teachers at ks4? Rare nowadays but that was one of the reasons I applied at my school :)
    bexallya likes this.
  20. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman Occasional commenter

    Where is this shortage on the TES website there are barely any jobs and in the county i visited every schools website, job page and associated academy pages and found a grand total of 4 jobs.

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