Pandemic is impacting the chemistry talent pool

02 July 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘We must act now to avoid losing talented teachers, students and undergraduates from the chemistry pipeline.’

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has published a survey indicating that the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 cohorts of trainee and first year teachers have been negatively impacted by covid-19. The RSC says that its findings have ‘ramifications not only for teachers and their teaching, but for school students, undergraduates and the economy.’

The RSC survey: The future of practical science lessons (PDF, opens in a new window), was conducted in the UK during April 2021. Of all the respondents, 179 were trainee chemistry teachers, and 80 were first year chemistry teachers. The survey indicated that 52% of trainee/first year science teachers felt unprepared to teach practical chemistry lessons, while 78% of trainee/first year science teachers said that they would like extra support in training to teach practical lessons. However, the survey did indicate that the pandemic allowed some teachers to gain increased confidence using technology, along with increased resilience to deal with the fast-changing environment.

As well as the survey, the RSC held an online event with representatives from across the education sector discussing teacher training during the pandemic and the long-term impact on practical work in schools.

The RSC is now calling on governments to plug the skills gap that early career science teachers are experiencing, by providing up to £7 million in funding to address immediate needs for Continuing Professional Development focused on practical teaching.

In addition, the RSC is developing a tailored package of support for early career science teachers and trainees to improve their skills and confidence. This resource includes a new micro-site with articles, videos and resources for trainee and early career science teachers.
The survey, which is part of the RSC’s new perspectives series, concludes: ‘Practical work – whether it is in the classroom or via outreach activities – is pivotal in providing an inspirational chemistry education.’

Sarah Robertson, Director of Education & Professional Practice, Royal Society of Chemistry said: ‘Our ability to educate, train and develop future chemical scientists is crucial if we are to realise the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. We must act now to avoid losing talented teachers, students and undergraduates from the chemistry pipeline.’

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