Leaving Certificate Physics Results Released

17 August 2018

The State Examinations Commission issued its results for the 2018 Leaving Certificate, and the data shows that the number of Irish students taking physics is broadly similar to last year - 7585 students took the subject in 2018 compared to 7535 in 2017.

Leaving Certificate Results

Professor David Riley, Chair of IOP Ireland, congratulated students receiving their results, saying that: “Taking physics opens doors at all levels for apprentices, technicians and graduates to explore options in science and engineering where there are excellent employment prospects.

“Physics has a critical role to play in Ireland, with physics-based industries providing over 287,000 jobs and €38bn annually to the Irish economy. But to sustain the pipeline of physics graduates we urgently need to increase the number of physics teachers in the country. Last year only 41 new physics teachers registered with the Teaching Council - a huge imbalance in the numbers qualified in physics compared to other sciences, with physics teachers making up just 17% of the cohort of science teachers.”

Currently, the number of registered physics teachers in Ireland stands at 1259, compared to 2376 chemistry teachers and 3878 registered biology teachers.

Professor Riley has called on the Irish Minister for Education to urgently review the situation and implement IOP proposals to address the crisis, noting that in England a similar situation is being tackled with some success. Physics teacher recruitment had hovered at around 400 each year from 1970 reaching an all-time low of 200 in 2001, while entries for Physics A-level had declined by 40% over 20 years to 2006. However, following significant Government intervention in partnership with the IOP, both trends have now reversed in England, with physics teacher recruitment figures reaching an all-time high of 920 in 2012 and an average annual recruitment over the last five years of 750.

Commenting on the gender of physics entrants, IOP Ireland Policy Advisor, Dr Sheila Gilheany, said:

"The uptake of physics by girls in Ireland has shown a small rise over the past two years from 24% of the cohort in 2016 to 27.5% this year. This is still a low level and this imbalance continues through all levels of study and into the wider workplace - representing a significant loss of science capital to the country and, at an individual level, represents a loss of career opportunities for many women.”

Similar gender statistics to those in Ireland have also been witnessed in the UK. In 2014, the IOP introduced the Improving Gender Balance project, which involved working closely with six schools in London with the aim to encourage more girls to choose A-level Physics. Between 2013 and 2015 the number of girls taking physics in the six schools increased from 12 to 52 girls, raising the representation of females in these classrooms from 10% to 27%.

The project has now been extended to Ireland, with Science Foundation Ireland funding a pilot with seven schools through the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning at Dublin City University, led by Dr Eilish McLoughlin.

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