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Supporting technicians

Published: 28 February 2020

Through its work with secondary schools in Ogden partnerships across England, the Trust has become increasingly aware of the invaluable role played by physics technicians within school science departments, but equally has seen how this role is often under-valued.

In an effort to ensure that technicians in partnership schools have access to support where required, as well as opportunities for continuing professional development, the Trust is part-funding two lead technicians to provide support to other physics technicians within partnership schools.

“With less specialist physics teachers entering the profession and growing pressure on school budgets, the support and expertise of technicians can make a vital difference to physics provision in schools,” says Clare Harvey, Ogden Chief Executive. “For many years, we have been supporting the teachers who are delivering physics and we continue to do so, but we are also now underpinning this with support for physics technicians who fulfil such an important role within school science.”

Paul Cook (Senior Technician at Ark Burlington Danes Academy, West London) became the Ogden technician lead in the south in 2018, providing training and support, and sharing news, ideas and best practice. James Ricketts (Physics Technician, Durham School) is now the Ogden technician lead for the north of England.

“I have been working in schools since the 1990s,” explains James. “I have worked as a technician for the majority of that time but have spent several years teaching physics too. I returned to technician work having discovered that, for me, the joys of teaching were far fewer than the daily enjoyment of working in the prep room.”

“I have worked as a physics technician in private schools and in state schools; I have experience of working within a well-resourced department, but also in situations with very limited resources and physics A-level taught by a maths specialist,” continues James. “I currently work as physics technician in Durham school, one of the oldest schools in the country. Here there is plenty of support for physics teaching and the headmaster is one of the physics teachers in the school.”

James Ricketts outside in lab coat - pictured in front of school building

“I am now bringing all these experiences to my Ogden role so I can better support the partnership schools who find themselves in a range of different circumstances. I want to help re-energise the excitement for physics by supporting the technicians to be able to offer exciting and enthralling learning opportunities to the pupils that are straightforward to prepare and deliver,” explains James.

“I have enjoyed finding out about the abundant knowledge that there is amongst the technician community and the different levels of skills people are bringing to their schools,” he continues. “It is surprising to hear of the stresses that some technicians are placed under, whether it comes to solo working or covering a massive workload, but the dedication of the staff I have talked to, with regards to providing the best possible support to the pupils in their schools, is very encouraging.”

“You can see in schools that the enthusiasm of staff for their subject is infectious. With fewer physics specialist practitioners in the workplace it is becoming a cycle of missed opportunities; the spark of excitement for the subject is left unignited without the energy of the physics enthusiast. I hope I can help nurture and encourage an enthusiasm for physics by supporting the technicians who support the teachers.” concludes James.

The Ogden Trust has produced an A3 poster for schools to encourage better support for technicians. It is available for download here.

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