September 2013

The know zone

  • Checks and balances
    Inadequacies have emerged in the procedure for issuing enhanced criminal records certificates. It should give schools pause for thought, says Richard Bird. More
  • ‘Fair’ but not ‘fit’
    In a complex world, schools should be funded according to their present and future needs, not by the requirement to appear ‘simple and transparent’, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Inspectors under scrutiny
    Amid criticism of inconsistency in Ofsted judgements, Jan Webber examines the claims that some inspectors are not fit for purpose and suggests what could be done to restore confidence in the system. More
  • Fighting for better pay and conditions
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policymaking body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Pay and Conditions Committee. More
  • How is ASCL policy made?
    Council, ASCL’s policy-making body, meets four times a year and each of the 148 elected Council members serves on one of its main committees: Education, Pay and Conditions, Funding, Professional, and Public and Parliamentary, where future policy is discussed in detail. More
  • Could you be an ASCL Council member?
    Council membership is often described as the best in-service training that members can have. More
  • ASCL PD events
    "Curriculum Planning: Balancing the Vision Against the Funding" and "Conversion to a Multi-Academy Trust – the Options" More
  • Are you new to SLT?
    If so, then you will doubtless have richly earned your promotion and hardly be new to the concept of effective leadership. More
  • Presenting with impact
    What makes a great presentation? We all know when we have heard one. More
  • Stimulating physics
    The Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) is managed by the Institute of Physics (IOP), in partnership with the national network of Science Learning Centres. More
  • Adding value
    Understanding performance More
  • Direct action?
    ASCL members in some areas of the country are raising issues with recruitment on to the School Direct programme for teacher training, although in other areas it seems to be successful. Here members share their experience of how School Direct is working in their schools. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Best supporting ‘actor’
    There is bound to be uncertainty when a school leader moves on... not least for the replacement who is given the strange title of ‘acting head’. But what does the job actually entail? More
Bookmark and Share

Stimulating physics

Background and objectives

The Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) is managed by the Institute of Physics (IOP), in partnership with the national network of Science Learning Centres. It is working in more than 400 secondary schools to raise the profile of physics in schools, support the professional development of physics teachers, and develop pupils’ perception of physics as exciting, accessible and relevant to their lives. It aims to increase the number of pupils choosing A level physics – particularly from groups under-represented, such as girls and pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM).

Who is it for?

The SPN provides a bespoke programme of support, including teacher continuing professional development (CPD) and pupil activities, to more than 400 ‘SPN Partner Schools’, at no cost to the school or its teachers. All English state-maintained schools are eligible to join. The IOP provides a complementary programme of free ‘global support’ for all schools and physics teachers in the UK and Ireland, including regional ‘Teacher Days’ of physics CPD.

The project also provides specialist mentoring for more than 400 recently qualified physics teachers each year.

What are the benefits to schools?

Each Partner School has access to a ‘Teaching and Learning Coach’ (TLC), an expert physics teacher, for two years. Support is tailored to the context of the school and may focus on gender issues, practical activities, pupil engagement or the subject knowledge and confidence of teachers.

Non-specialist physics teachers may attend one of the SPN Summer Schools, an intensive four-day programme of physics CPD, at no cost to teachers or schools.

Among the pupil engagement activities are the popular ‘Ever Wondered Why’ shows, an exciting and thought-provoking stage show for whole year groups; the Exoplanet Physics Project, for Year 9 science clubs; and also A level taster lessons or GCSE master classes.

The impact of the project

The average increase in progression to AS level physics from 2010 to 2012 from SPN schools was double the national average; for girls the increase was 16.5 per cent, compared with below 8 per cent in all other schools.

The average triple science GCSE entry in summer 2012 was more than 25 per cent in schools supported by SPN from 2010 to 2012; for other schools the average was 21 per cent.

One teacher said, ‘The impact of [the TLC’s] visits in my department has been nothing short of astounding. He has left teachers and pupils positively buzzing with enthusiasm for physics.” Another said, “By using methods you showed me, we were able to help our students get some of the best A level results in the school. I was recently observed by Ofsted and by using what you’ve shown me, they judged my lesson to be outstanding.”

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at the IOP, said, “The SPN represents the culmination of our education work over the last decade. Its success reaffirms that the knowledge, confidence and enthusiasm of teachers is a major factor on whether students continue to study physics.

Find out more...

For more details about the SPN and to find out how your school can participate in this national initiative as an SPN Partner School, visit or email

For details of other IOP projects in education, CPD and teacher training, visit