LABOUR HAS warned of a growing teacher shortage crisis amid a rise in the numbers leaving the profession.
Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said a record of just under 50,000 “quit” in the 2013-14 academic year, and applications for teaching courses had dropped by nearly 21,000 over the past 12 months.
However the Government branded the criticism “disingenuous”, saying it failed to distinguish between people resigning and retiring, and full-time equivalent teacher numbers were actually 13,100 higher than in 2010.
Ms Powell said: “For years, this Government chose to ignore the growing problem with teacher supply, continuing instead to botch recruitment and do down the profession at every opportunity. As a result schools are now struggling against falling applications and the highest number of teachers quitting the profession on record.
“The Tories’ failure to take this problem seriously is threatening standards in our schools and damaging the education of our children - it cannot go on any longer. Last week David Cameron claimed to care about social mobility - nothing is more important to raising standards, aspirations and social mobility than having excellent teachers in our schools.”
Labour highlighted figures showing 49,120 teachers left the state-funded sector between November 2013 and 2014, up 3,480 on the previous year and the highest since 1997.
It was 220 more than entered the state sector during the period. Total applications for teaching courses were down from 152,790 in September last year to 131,810 last month.
But a Department for Education spokeswoman said the figures for this year did not include Scotland due to administrative changes, and there could be fewer multiple applications by individuals. She added: “Teaching remains a hugely popular profession with the highest numbers of people joining since 2008 and three per cent more people due to start postgraduate teacher training than this time last year,” the spokeswoman said.
“The latest figures show the number of former teachers coming back to the classroom has continued to rise year after year. As a result there are now 13,100 more full-time equivalent teachers than in 2010.
“We want all schools to be able to recruit high quality teachers who can deliver our vision of educational excellence everywhere, which is why we are focused on attracting more top graduates into the profession.
“To help us continue to attract the best and brightest graduates into the profession as the economy strengthens, we have announced a new range of generous bursaries and scholarships for 2016- 17 - worth up to £30,000 tax-free - in the core academic subjects that help children reach their potential.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “All the evidence points to a crisis in teacher supply.
“Only the Government appears to be in denial about the scale of the problem, probably because it recognises that the root cause of the crisis is the adverse impact of its policies on the school workforce. Since 2010, there have been relentless attacks on teachers. Year on year cuts to teachers’ pay, workload spiralling out of control, de-professionalisation, demoralisation and denigration.”