A mentoring scheme will look at the effects of external mentoring on the retention of early career chemistry teachers, with results to be published in autumn 2020

It remains difficult to recruit and retain chemistry teachers in England. Data from the DfE for 2018–19 show that only 79% of the required number of trainee chemistry teachers were recruited, down from 83% the year before. Research from the Wellcome Trust shows science teachers are 5% more likely than non-science teachers to leave the profession altogether in the first five years.

In order to address this, more research is being done to measure the effect of specific interventions on the retention of science teachers. In particular, the Wellcome Trust and Education Endowment Foundation’s Science Teacher Retention Round looks at developing and testing ideas that might impact the retention of science teachers.

One such scheme, Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers (MECCT), run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), begins in February 2019. It will recruit 40 mentors and 40 mentees from state schools in the Midlands and East of England, pairing them up, supporting them, and gathering their opinions as mentoring progresses.

A picture of a teacher mentoring a younger colleague

Source: © Getty Images

The RSC’s MECCT scheme will look specifically at early career chemistry teachers (with up to four years of post-NQT experience) being mentored by experienced chemistry teachers (more than four years of post-NQT experience). It will also provide funds to cover the costs of teacher absence.

Academic research already indicates that mentored teachers are more likely to stay in the profession, and research by the Gatsby Trust indicates that external mentoring has a positive effect on retention for physics teachers. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) will carry out anonymised evaluation to measure and attempt to explain the impact of this mentoring, making use of a template for intervention description and replication (TIDieR) – common in healthcare research – so that the project can be scaled up or delivered by other organisations.

Mentoring is a common feature of teacher training and early career professional development. However, this research into the effects of external mentoring on the retention of early career chemistry teachers, with results to be published in autumn 2020, promises to make a valuable contribution to research and practice in this area.