Tom Williams from the Royal Grammar School (RGS) in Newcastle has been awarded the highly coveted ‘Teacher of Physics Award’ from the Institute of Physics (IOP), in recognition of his inspirational physics teaching. He is the first teacher in the North East to win the award in the last decade.
The IOP Teachers of Physics Awards celebrate outstanding classroom practice in the teaching of physics and recognise the success of secondary school teachers in the UK and Ireland.
Tom is one of the RGS’s partnership teachers. As well as providing teaching to students at the RGS, he also shares his knowledge with state-funded schools throughout the region and beyond, in a role part-funded by The Reece Foundation.
The remit of RGS partnerships is to collaborate with other schools, businesses and education organisations to increase aspiration and attainment across the North East. Last year around 40 RGS partnerships projects reached over 7,300 students and 300 staff in 76 schools across the region.
In his role as a specialist physics partnership teacher, Tom works from RGS to improve the delivery of physics content throughout the region by identifying knowledge gaps amongst science teachers and building confidence in delivering inspirational physics teaching. He has also worked on several super-curricular projects, including the retrofitting of an antique radio to sound like the 1950s, in conjunction with Beamish Museum.
John Smith, Director of Partnerships at RGS, said: “RGS Newcastle is an exceptional school in a relatively deprived area of the UK. While we are convinced of the infinite potential of young people from the North East, the social mobility statistics in our region are some of the worst in the country and the challenges have been compounded by the pandemic. Too many children are missing opportunities afforded to others born elsewhere. Our model of a highly academic education ought to be available to any child who is intellectually curious, able and aspiring, and who would benefit from a fast-paced and challenging curriculum. Access to these teaching opportunities is one of the aspects we provide through our RGS Partnerships programme.”
Understanding, enjoying and exploring science can lead to a rewarding career and is the route Tom chose to take, having previously worked in the private sector and police service.
Tom said: “I decided to become a teacher after feeling unfulfilled in my previous careers and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. Physics and physicists have a vital role to play in solving some of the 21st century’s biggest challenges, such as responding to climate change, ensuring personal and online security and supporting an ageing population.”
The teaching industry is facing a record-breaking shortage of trainees this year, and physics is taking the brunt of the shortfall, with only around 20 per cent of the physics teacher recruitment target met. But without dedicated physics teachers, we would have far less physics-based research and industry – and society – would not benefit from the contributions made by physicists to the continually expanding knowledge of the world in which we live.
Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School has recently become a School Centred Initial Teach Training (SCITT) Hub in Newcastle providing a base for trainee maths and physics teachers in the region to secure placements within its established network of partner schools.
Tom added: “I am really proud of the high standard of teaching we offer, both to our students and to our partnership schools. Teaching is a fantastic and rewarding career, and the RGS has the facilities, expertise and network to attract new people to the profession and make a positive contribution throughout the region.”
Chris Shepherd, Strategic Lead (Recruitment & Retraining) at the IOP, said: “I am delighted to be recognising and applauding Tom. Each of this year’s winners has, through their skill and personal commitment, made a significant positive difference to the teaching of physics in their school, the student experience and the level of student achievement. On behalf of the Institute of Physics, I warmly congratulate and thank him for his dedication to students, school and subject.”
RGS are holding an open morning on Saturday, November 12th, from 9.30am – 12.30pm for new admissions. Please visit https://www.rgs.newcastle.sch.uk/ for more information.