There are unfilled training places for 14 of 17 secondary school subjectsby Angela Rayner / January 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Teachers are crucial to how our children do at school. They can inspire, stimulate, encourage and, when necessary, provide the discipline children need to focus on their school and homework. But schools are facing a crisis in teacher training, recruitment and retention. Children are losing out because we simply don’t have enough teachers.
The government has now missed its own teacher recruitment targets five years in a row, and its initial teacher training figures for the 2016/17 academic year show a worrying fall in the number of new recruits. Only 93 per cent of places were filled, and only 89 per cent of places for secondary schools. Nearly 2,000 places went unfilled—which will leave tens of thousands of children without the proper, quality education they need.
The initial figures also show there were unfilled training places for 14 of 17 secondary school subjects. These included Maths, Physics, Design and Technology, Computing and Business Studies, which all missed their targets by at least 15 per cent. In stark contrast, in 2010/11 there were unfilled training places in just two subjects.
If Britain is to be a serious global competitor post-Brexit, and if we are going to plug our own domestic skills shortages, these are the very subjects where qualified teachers will be most needed. Yet these are the very areas where the government is most clearly failing.
The problem is even worse than these facts suggest. About 6,000 of those training to be a teacher started their course after achieving a 2:2 or lower in their degree subject. Less than half of new trainee teachers are studying for their teaching qualifications in universities.
The National Union of Teachers believes that the problems schools are facing in attracting new recruits is down to “excessive workload and attacks on pay.” In my view, it is also about the government failing to value teachers properly and demoralising them with constant chopping and changing.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that there is no plan from the Department of Education on how to meet its teacher recruitment targets, and that the Department does not understand “the difficult reality that many schools face in recruiting teachers.” It’s as if it doesn’t really care about the quality of teaching our children are getting.
The May 2016 report from the PAC, Training New Teachers, found that the vast and bewildering number of different routes into teaching is confusing for many applicants. I am all for different means of access, but the Department is not doing very much at all to clear up the confusion that aspiring teachers face. Meanwhile, Labour research has shown that in 2015, secondary schools spent a huge £56m on advertising for vacant teaching posts in 2015. That is a 61 per cent increase in school spending on advertising since 2010. Spending more, but getting less.
Of course, the real victims of this Tory failure are the countless children in every town and city in England who rely on qualified teachers. In November 2015, there were 300 fewer qualified teachers compared to 2014. In the same period, there were 2,200 more unqualified teachers. Every child deserves a teacher who is knowledgeable and an expert in their chosen field. The problem will only grow over the course of this parliament and in the years to come.
Is it any wonder that qualified and experienced teachers are leaving the profession in droves? Our schools face the first real terms cuts in their budgets for nearly two decades and over half a million children are being taught in classes of more than 30 pupils.
The Department for Education’s own figures show that there will be almost one million more pupils enrolling in state schools in the next decade. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that to maintain even the current pupil:teacher ratio we will need an additional 30,000 teachers by 2020.
Too often, teachers are overworked, under-appreciated, harried by top-down Whitehall diktat and left to deal with the constant changes in our schools. Until this government realises that qualified teachers are the educational leaders the next generation are relying on to help them fulfill their potential, the crisis will worsen.