A campaign to encourage more maths teachers appears to be paying off. Jane Tyler meets one of the growing number of women taking up the subject.
Alison Thompson is not your stereotypical maths teacher.
Young, trendy, with an easy-going manner, she is light years away from the traditional image of the middle-aged man in a tweed jacket with elbow patches.
The 26-year-old is one of a new breed of maths teachers who are entering the profession via a slightly different route.
And in the coming years there will be many more like Alison for she is backing a campaign to encourage people currently in other professions to consider teaching maths or science.
Latest figures from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) show the number of people applying to be teachers is up by 40 per cent for science and 33 per cent for maths since last September.
Alison has been teaching maths at the 1,200-pupil Smith’s Wood Sports College in Solihull for a year and prior to that was at Arthur Terry School in Sutton Coldfield for two years.
Unlike the vast majority of her peers, she did not study the subject at degree level, choosing instead to do geography.
She spent six months working in a hotel before doing a six-month maths enhancement course at Liverpool’s Hope University prior to the year-long Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
“I didn’t take the normal route because, although I did maths for A level, by the time I’d finished I was completely ‘mathed’ out and couldn’t face it for a degree,” she said. “Doing geography for a degree made me realise that actually I quite liked maths and realised there were more fun ways of teaching it.”
Alison, who is originally from Lincolnshire, admits that the subject has a bad press and can be intimidating.
But this is one of the reasons why she enjoys her career so much. You have to think of different ways to teach it because maths is not like other subjects,” she said. “If you come into it after doing a maths degree then your maths is way up there, way beyond what the pupils can understand.
“Because I didn’t find maths that easy myself, I can relate to the pupils more.
“I try to make it different by using real life examples, tasks you’d do everyday.”
Alison teaches 11 to 16-year-olds. She is backing the TDA’s campaign, saying she hopes her story will help encourage people in other professions thinking of a career switch to consider maths.
“It’s good in a school to have people who have come from other professions because they bring knowledge and experience with them,” she said.
Despite the increase in applications, the TDA says there is still an urgent need for science and maths teachers, with about 6,000 required each year.
The TDA figures also bust the myth that maths and science are male domains.
There has been a rise in women applications - up by 35 per cent since last year for maths and a 41 per cent increase for science.
Graham Holley, TDA chief executive, said: “The increasing appetite for teaching maths and science is really encouraging.
“However there is still a huge job to do in getting high numbers of quality teachers into these priority subjects.
‘‘I would urge anyone thinking about becoming a teacher to begin the process today.
“Good quality science and maths teaching will be key to our future economic prosperity.”
l For more information about how to become a teacher, visit www.teach.gov.uk/talent