Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ministers Bury Their Heads in the Sand on Recruitment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ministers Bury Their Heads in the Sand on Recruitment

Article excerpt

Unless teachers' working conditions improve, staff will continue to leave in droves - and people will be deterred from joining the professions

The teacher recruitment "challenge" (according to schools minister Nick Gibb) or "crisis" (according to just about everyone else) continues apace. Figures released by the Department for Education last week show that the number applying to initial teacher training courses has declined by 2 per cent since last year (bit.ly/ITTcensus).

Only four of the 18 secondary subjects recruited enough trainees to meet the government's teacher supply model targets. The situation is particularly grave in maths, physics, computing, and design and technology - all subjects where schools were already struggling to find teachers. But there are likely to be shortages even in the subjects that have met their targets, because not enough people have been trained over the past four years.

This is not good news for school leaders struggling to recruit. Those I speak to tell me of the soaring cost of advertising, the exorbitant fees paid to supply teacher agencies and the growing market in enhanced payment packages for graduates, particularly in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

If ministers were brave enough to face facts, they would acknowledge that there was a pressing teacher recruitment problem. The percentage rate of vacancies and temporarily filled positions for full-time classroom teachers in state secondary schools trebled between 2011 and 2015 (bit.ly/SchoolPersonnel).

School leaders, desperate to find teachers, are resorting to a "jack of all trades" approach - requiring teachers to teach out of their subject area. For English Baccalaureate subjects in November 2015, some 15 per cent of lessons were taught by teachers who were not subject specialists.

One in four maths and one in five English secondary school teachers didn't have an A level in these subjects. …

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