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Personal profile

Overview

After working as a civil engineer, and doing youth work in the evenings, I decided to focus my working life on young people. I trained to be a teacher in Oxford and taught science on the wonderful (and challenging) Blackbird Leys estate. I then relocated to West Papua with Voluntary Service Overseas and taught science in Indonesian, learning a lot about education in a very different cultural context, and with equipment made from local materials such as bamboo and tin cans.

I came to the University of Manchester to study the impacts of this kind of volunteering through a PhD. I spent some years doing action research in schools in the North West, focusing on inclusive school improvement, and then joined the PGCE team in 2004. I have been training science teachers since then, and now also lead Initial Teacher Education within MIE.

What makes the PGCE Science Course special? - a message to potential applicants

The PGCE Science cohort is relatively large, with over 60 trainees across the three specialisms of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. We work largely in tutor groups of 20, and as tutors, we really get to know our group. We emphasise teamwork and learning from each other, throughout the course and beyond. As in all subjects, our aim is to help trainees to develop as critical, reflective, professional teachers and colleagues.

Each year most of our trainees take up roles in schools and colleges in the region, and so we have the great fortune to work with them as mentors, training the next cohorts. We are partners in a diverse network of amazing schools and colleges – so trainees can learn from the expertise of highly experienced teachers and school leaders.

Learning to teach is a challenge for most people (as staff we haven’t forgotten our own experiences!). Through this connected partnership, we are able to support and guide trainees very effectively through this process.

One of the themes of the Science PGCE is what we call ‘connectionist science education’. We want to change the way young people see science in schools: too often it is ‘just’ a school subject, not very connected to everyday life or the vast majority of jobs and careers. We want to broaden young people’s experience of science in school, so we focus on the very challenging issues around environmental sustainability – taking a lead from young people, and working with local NGOs on curriculum development.

We also work with exam boards, professional and subject organisations, and researchers working in educational fields so that you can engage with up-to-date and research-informed practice.

Feedback from our trainees and our partner schools and colleges is highly positive. It is a demanding course, but it is a richly varied and dynamic experience, for all those of us lucky enough to be involved.

Employability

Trainees mostly gain employment locally and regionally, and the vast majority begin their first post immediately in September. We draw on the experience of previous trainees, some in senior positions in schools, to help you to decide on the type of school or college you want to work in as an NQT, and then to prepare confidently for interview. After you have completed the course, we maintain contact through online CPD sessions, and by welcoming your continuing and enriching contributions to the programme.

Social media handle and links to subject blogs

Twitter: @ahowes_dr

The UoM PGCE Secondary Partnership blog is at www.manchesterpgcesecondary.co.uk.

Main research and teaching interests:

  • Science teacher development (secondary education)
  • Secondary initial teacher education
  • STEM education
  • Developing inclusive schools and teachers
  • Qualitative Data Generation and Analysis
  • Collaborative action research

I have been first supervisor for 10 completed PhDs in Education, and currrently I am first supervisor for three more doctoral students, and co-supervisor to another two. Doctoral supervision requires a combination of my capacities across different fields.

International experience:

  • 2020-24: Expert steerting group member of MOST, an EU FP7 project on open schooling and STEM
  • 2013-17: Advisory board member of MASCIL, an EU FP7 project on enquiry based learning and workplace learning in science and maths
  • 2008-15: Science curriculum and teacher development in Egypt
  • 2010-13: Co-PI in Manchester for Primas FP7 project on enquiry-based learning in science and maths
  • 2009-11: member of Comenius project on science and maths education
  • 2003-06 : consultant, DfID-funded school improvement project in Beijing
  • 2003-06 : member of European-funded project on inclusive education (Lisbon)
  • 1998-2001: PhD research on grassroots international collaboration through volunteering (Indonesian context)

Biography

I started academic life as an engineer, being awarded a first in Engineering (MA Cambridge) and working for British Rail. I then moved fields to train as a science teacher, completing a PGCE in Oxford University, and worked in schools in disadvantaged areas in the UK for four years, and in Indonesia with VSO for three years as a science teacher and teacher trainer.

I came to Manchester to complete an MSc Educational Research in 1996 and continued on to a PhD in Education here. For six years I worked as a research associate on development and research projects relating to inclusive education, with an action research element. In 2004 I became a lecturer in science education and have continued to develop my research in relation to science education and disadvantage as a senior lecturer.

Research interests

Science and maths education and teacher education

Main projects:

'Visions' review of curriculum and assessment for the Royal Society (2013)

Co-PI: Primas EU FP7 project, Promoting Inquiry in Maths and Science Education (2010-2013)

Co-PI: Compass EU Comenius project on interdisciplinary science and maths education (2009-11)

Developing inclusive schools: Co-director of ESRC-funded research project 'Facilitating Teacher Engagement in More Inclusive Practice' with Trinity College Carmarthen, 2005-07)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Areas of expertise

  • QC Physics
  • LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Digital Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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