‘Worrying trend’ as England fails to recruit enough teachers for the seventh year running

Both the Conservatives and Labour have promised to increase teachers salaries in the next parliament, with Labour adding that it would also tackle the causes of high workload.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have promised to increase teachers salaries in the next parliament, with Labour adding that it would also tackle the causes of high workload.
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England has failed to recruit enough teachers for the seventh year running, with dire shortages in essential subjects like maths and science.

The government has missed its own target, recruiting as few as half the number of teachers needed in key subjects, which school leaders said was “alarming as there are serious teacher shortages in all these subjects”.

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Yorkshire had the highest drop-out rate in the country, tied with the South West, as 10 per cent of trainee teachers in the region did not get qualified teacher status.

There were 3,050 trainee teachers in Yorkshire in the 2017/18 academic year.

The Department of Education data, which covers England only, does show a rise in the numbers signing up to train to teach, with 29,580 new entrants for postgraduate initial teacher training this year (2019/20) compared to 29,215 last year (2018/19).

But the department sets targets for the numbers of trainees it needs to recruit in each subject, and at each level - primary and secondary - based on the numbers it estimates are needed to ensure there are enough qualified teachers in the future.

Many of these targets have been missed.

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This year, 85 per cent of the 20,087 overall target for secondary subject trainees was reached - the seventh consecutive year that it has been missed.

At primary level, 96 per cent of the 13,003 target was reached.

A breakdown shows that just 64 per cent of the target for trainee maths teachers was met, along with 43 per cent for physics, 70 per cent for chemistry, 79 per cent for computing and 62 per cent for modern foreign languages.

This was especially worrying as pupil numbers in state-funded secondary schools have already risen by almost 150,000 since 2014, and will rise by a further third of a million pupils over the next five years, the National Education Union said.

Describing it as a “worrying year-on-year trend”, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary said: “The Government is still failing to account for historic under-recruitment, and is not doing enough to prevent so many teachers leaving the profession. One third of new recruits leave within five years of entering teaching.

“The Government also routinely fails to recognise the educational risks of not doing enough to recruit teachers across all subjects. In today’s results we see we only recruited half the number of required physics teachers and only two thirds of the needed trainee teachers in maths, modern foreign languages and chemistry.”

Mr Courtney also warned against the enormous pressure within the teaching profession, which drives out good teachers.

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“Unmanageable workload, excessive accountability and restraint on pay has created a teacher recruitment and retention crisis entirely of the Government’s own making. The current Government shows no signs of budging on any of the issues which anger teachers and drive far too many out of the profession,” he added.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) described the missed targets as “alarming”.

"The situation with maths is doubly worrying because the number of students taking A-level fell this year, as did those progressing to study mathematical sciences in university, after the introduction of new tougher qualifications at both GCSE and A-level," Mr Barton said.

"If this trend continues it will mean a smaller pool of potential maths teachers in the future, making a bad situation even worse."

Bursaries and scholarships worth up to £28,000 are available for trainee teachers - with those planning to teach chemistry, languages, maths and physics offered the highest payments.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have promised to increase teachers’ salaries in the next parliament, with Labour adding that it would also “tackle the causes of high workload”.