Finding your path towards securing a Further Education (FE) maths teacher job requires a decision on which route would be the most practical. Common reasons put forward by those teaching mathematics in FE include having a personal passion for the subject, wanting to work with a post-16 age group or wishing to change career altogether.
There has been a shortage of maths teachers in the UK for a number of years now, be it in schools or colleges, and so it is a perfect time to embark on a career in this field. The Association of Colleges English and maths survey from December 2018 discovered that 56% of Colleges reported staff shortages in maths. The same survey found that 94% of respondents (51% of general FE colleges in the UK) agreed maths and English should be prioritised in FE colleges.
The overall shortfall of teaching numbers in FE has been growing in general in recent years, with a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing that teacher FE numbers dropped by 20,000 since 2010 and the picture is not getting any rosier. This points to a clear broad career path for those wishing to become a maths teacher.
With the UK government’s far-reaching Wolf Report, published in 2015, recommending that all 16-19-year-olds without a grade C at GCSE in either maths or English continue to study these subjects, demand far outweighs supply in the market for FE maths teachers.
Leading on to the titular “Can a Maths Teacher Teach Physics?” question, research funded by the Nuffield Foundation and published in December 2018 showed that just over a quarter (26%) of respondents teach another subject alongside maths in an FE setting. So in short, the answer is “yes”.
In terms of the composition of the workforce, the research found that FE maths teachers arrive in the profession from three broad paths: changing careers from outside of teaching (24%); having some experience of teaching in FE but switching subjects or else having had maths as a second subject (19%); and teaching maths in a different setting from FE (23%).
An FE maths teacher’s core duties will include planning, preparing and delivering a high standard of teaching and learning resources. You’ll be expected to assess, record and evaluate a student’s progress and work, while giving constructive feedback and guidance. Maths teachers will be expected to ensure that all students receive appropriate enrichment activities and support services where appropriate.
As mentioned above, switching careers is frequently cited as a motivation for those embarking on a career as a maths teacher. The Nuffield Foundation-funded report stated that the “most common prior employment for FE mathematics teachers is working in industry, business or self-employment”.
Bursaries for FE maths teachers are available from the government but you will need or currently be working towards a degree and GCSE grade C/4 in English and maths to train on a postgraduate initial teacher training course.
There are three main types of funding available for those wishing to pursue teacher training and some people are eligible for all three. These are: a tax-free bursary or scholarship; a Tuition Fee Loan or Maintenance Loan; and additional financial support for those who have a disability, are a parent or have an adult dependent.
The Department for Education (DfE) has announced a new series of incentives for the 2020/21 academic year aimed at encouraging maths teachers to enter the FE fold. Bursaries are £26,000 for maths FE teacher training and grants of £18,200 are also available to the employer to cover the cost of the training. The DfE states that these incentives are offered on a first-come-first-served basis and successful recipients will be notified from March 2020.
The level of qualification needed to become an FE maths teacher does vary, with respondents to “A survey of teachers of mathematics in England’s Further Education Colleges” showing that 7% held a Master’s degree all the way down to 34% holding a Level 2 qualification.
The government’s current qualification framework for teaching FE maths is based around three pathways: Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) including Teaching Mathematics (numeracy; 120 credits); Level 5 integrated specialist diploma (120 credits); and Level 5 standalone specialist diploma (45 credits).
Also called a PGCE or Cert Ed, the DET with Teaching Mathematics involves undertaking a minimum of 100 hours’ practice. Of this, 50 must be in maths. The DET can last one or two years. This may be the favored route for those wishing to teach maths with physics.
The Level 5 integrated specialist diploma is intended for those wanting to specialise in teaching maths. It is similar to the DET but the qualification is set wholly in the context of mathematics (numeracy). This qualification also requires a 100-hours-worth of practice as a minimum and is suitable for those able to commit to a one- or two-year qualification.
The Level 5 standalone specialist diploma will likely appeal to those who already hold a generic teaching qualification and now wish to specialise in maths. This qualification requires a minimum of 50-hours’ practice.
Back in 2013, the UK government did away with the requirement for FE teachers to hold formal teaching qualifications — great news for those who may have felt a career as an FE maths teacher was beyond them due to lacking in qualifications. FE is one education arena where you can get qualifications while actually in the teaching role. Significant industry experience in maths may be enough to persuade an FE institution to take a punt on you but you will likely be expected to have at least a Level 2 in English and maths.
If you do not hold a teaching qualification, you can take a DET part-time while working as an FE maths teacher.
Prospects estimate that a qualified FE teacher can usually expect to earn anything between £24,702 and £37,258, depending on experience, with this rising to more than £40,000 for a maths teacher. An unqualified FE teacher is less with salaries ranging from £19,758 to £23,325.
Payscale puts the average maths teacher salary at £30,569 in the UK. Maths teacher jobs in Manchester pay an average of 17.8% more than the national average, making it the most attractive city in the UK to be a maths teacher. This is ahead of London at 5.2% more. Leicestershire is where the lowest salaries for maths teachers can be found at 21.6% lower than the average.
The recommended London allowances for FE staff in England by the University and College Union are £2,725 for inner London, £1,790 for outer London and £704 for fringe.