DfE fails to recruit trainee teachers

Official figures have revealed that the government has missed its recruitment targets for trainee teachers for a third year, resulting in a potential teacher shortage crisis.

Schools have been told to prepare for a teacher recruitment shortfall, after DfE figures showed that more than 2,000 training places had been left unfilled, and there may even be a shortage of student teachers being trained in key academic subjects, the Independent reports.

With the number of trainee teachers at their lowest since 2007, there are serious fears that schools will be unable to recruit enough staff for next year, with a 7% shortfall predicted.

This year, 93% of vacancies for trainees were filled, compared with 95% last year, according to official statistics. Art, history, physical education and chemistry were the only subjects that recruited enough new teachers, with other subjects significantly under-recruiting:

  • 67% of physics places were filled
  • 85% of biology places were filled
  • 88% of maths places were filled
  • 44% of design and technology places were filled


ASCL’s Malcolm Trobe said headteachers had been describing the recruitment situation as “ghastly” and “a disaster area”. Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said: “A shortage in qualified teachers and soaring class sizes is damaging standards in our schools.”

The DfE played down the warnings. “We always allocate more places than are needed to ensure a high-quality supply of teachers across England’s classrooms, we never expect to fill 100% of allocated places and we are confident we will continue to meet future demand.”

What should the government do to encourage more people to train as teachers? Is your school already feeling the effects of the teacher shortage?

25 thoughts on “DfE fails to recruit trainee teachers

  1. I have been qualified since June 2014 as a design and technoly teacher but I am struggling to get a permanent teaching role in my area. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of teachers in Dorset.

  2. Good reasons for lack of recruitment
    1. They have to pay for the training which is damn expensive. One of the reasons recruitment was good when didn’t have to pay was grads looking for direction and this was offering trying without having to buy before Now too expensive when not really sure
    2. Teaching is not very attractive. It is long hours beyond those paid for. Terrible treatment from a variety of people including pupils, their parents, other teaching staff sometimes and often senior management teams who simply have no real idea of how to manage people, with little to no respect for the people they are managing. I could go on but what really is the point

  3. I am not surprised to hear that there is a shortage of trainee teachers, many graduates want a career that is fulfilling and enjoyable, which teaching is, but they don’t want the immediate stress that goes with teaching.
    Those who enter the world of teaching love being in the classroom and sharing their knowledge, but so much of their time is now spent on paperwork and preparing reports. If we could go back to more hands-on teaching and less report writing then perhaps more new teachers could be encouraged to sign up.
    Realistic time being available to teach would also help. I used to teach food technology and only had an hour… with five mins. at the beginning and end of the lesson for registration and putting things away it does not leave very long for actual preparing and cooking of the food. Experts may be able to prepare a meal in mins. but the children in our schools are not experts and they need time to take their time and learn the skills required. Instead we rush them through, make very simple dishes that can be done quickly and spend a lot of time setting targets and writing reports!!!!
    Come on those in power, give us time to teach properly and give the children time to learn the basic skills instead of rushing them through their education.
    Bring on more Teacher Training Colleges too, so that we stop rushing graduates through a teaching qualification and we give them the opportunity to learn about and understand what makes children tick, how to deal with behaviour issues and how to get reluctant learners to enjoy learning.
    I believe we rush them through their education too quickly instead of ensuring the learning they have completed is thorough and they understand it.
    Get rid of the league tables, reward good teachers and encourage those who are struggling more instead of pressurising them to achieve higher and higher results every year.

  4. Well let’s think about this for a moment! Schools have had significant budget cuts, pensions have been raided & teachers’ pay squeezed, teachers have been blamed for the failure of this government’s policies & failure to deal with incompetent (private) exam boards, oh and a shrinking curriculum knocking education back into the 1950s. Can’t think why it is less attractive than it was 5 years ago!

  5. Agree with the above comments completely. I am coming to the end of my career in primary teaching and I must say that if I were starting today I would probably give it a miss to be honest. The actual teaching I love and over the years I do believe my experience has made me a better teacher. That is someone who can transmit knowledge to young children. Unfortunately, this quality appears very low on current requirements for a teaching post. Pretty soon the situation will be as follows: go into any classroom in the UK and you will see teachers at laptops and teaching assistants / INAs etc… and even mums doing the actual teaching. Teachers are now required to be classroom managers rather than actually spending time face-to-face with the kids. Of course many dedicated teachers do both very effectively, but it is a question of priority. Personally I was never any good at what is now pretty low-level administrative office work, and thought it a waste of my training to have to do it. Still do, and reluctantly oblige to do my bit towards the paper mountain, which nobody ever will read! I salute those teachers that can cope with all this, but I suspect they are doing a 60 hour working week and will probably burn-out or get married after 5 years of this kind of service and have kids of their own. . As for OFSTED, Mr. Gove and the rest…my opinion is best left unsaid. I’ll be surprised if anyone wants to teach in state schools in the near future.

  6. What the government needs to do is stop charging the earth for the cost of a pgce. The course roughly lasts for 9 months and costs £9,000. This price is disproportionately absurd in comparison to living costs if you do not live at home with mum and dad or have big financial responsibilities already, which Student Finance loans won’t cover. Not only that, but the existing pressure on teachers, hours being put in, and salary just do not match up. The second thing this government needs to understand is that passing a ‘professional skills test’ in Literacy and Numeracy does not equate great teachers. I know from personal experience the ‘3 tries’ limit for these tests is simply barbaric. There could be a multitude of reasons why a person may ‘fail’ these computer generated tests… reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with their capabilities to teach. You could pass one test but not pass the other due to home/work stresses non related to teacher training. Then on top of that this government and its bright ideas thinks it is acceptable to systematically LOCK OUT applicants who have failed one or both tests… for TWO YEARS! Meaning that the lives of possible amazing teachers, oozing with potential and who have a real passion for the job, AND who may already have a few years of teaching experience, are stopped dead in their tracks for two years. Regardless of the reasons why. I think it is disgusting to treat people this way. Three years doing a degree, going through the application process and interview stage, being told you are the best they’ve seen… then instantly gaining a place on a pgce course is one of the best feelings ever! Then to do the skills tests and pass one but fail the other and be told you cannot reapply for two years is heartbreaking. The irony… to now see student teachers on placement who ‘qualify’ because they passed a computer test but have zero understanding or confidence OR experience in the world of teaching. This government is going the right way for all the wrong things to happen. I seriously hope that somebody takes charge who actually gives a damn about the way the education system is going.

  7. The result of this deficit is much more complex and lies in the shortage of allocations for teacher education providers. The government has closed down many university providers who were indeed training new teachers and the burden now increasingly falls upon schools to train teachers. This model is not sustainable in this climate and schools are taking up too much. the shortfall was inevitable and it is a result of bad strategic planning.

  8. Are the government really surprised? I have been a teacher for more than 20 years. I used to enjoy it. It used to be fun. Then it broke. My own children will never join the profession because it steals their father from them and they resent it. Instead of playing with them I am almost always doing something for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILDREN. As a teacher I get abuse from every level; in the classroom, from parents, from exam boards from government, from the media and from society. OFSTED! Nothing more than bullies, a political weapon in the hands of plutocrats who know little more about education , pedagogy and teaching than the children. As a teacher I don’t get paid overtime. I work 60+ hours a week due to a divisive contract and I hear every day on the media about lazy or incompetent teachers. You demand too much of us. The nation does not really care about education. If it did, then as a nation we would pay our taxes appropriately, chase and punish those that don’t and fund the system appropriately rather than imposing on the fragile good will of a profession under siege. We as a society don’t do that because tax cuts and giveaways are more important to us as a society than paying for a world class education system. When children, friends, people I meet ask me about becoming a teacher, I can not, in good conscience recommend teaching as a career. I do the opposite. Few sane rational people would choose to go into this “profession”. If it is a profession, it is the poor man amongst them. We are paid the least as “professionals” We have the worst pension, another bone of contention. Teachers are the most scrutinised and observed workers in our society. No other profession would tolerate it, yet it seems OK to many that teachers be subjected to working in a goldfish bowl. So here is what you do Government:
    1. Make exam boards pay examiners to mark the papers they set as “coursework” rather than add it as an unpaid task to teachers workload. This used to be the case and somehow got outsources to cheaper labour – teachers.
    2. Pay schools fairly so that they can invest in proper resources.
    3. Increase the non contact time that teachers have, protect it contractually. This way, teachers can plan, mark and deal with consequences of teaching IN SCHOOL rather than being expected to carry work home and do another working week off site unpaid.
    4 Be a bit more supportive of us and make sure that clowns like Gove and Wilshaw are never appointed to positions of influence ever again.
    5. Place a limit on the hours that teachers work.
    6. Accept that Education is for the social good and and an investment in the prosperity of future generations. Stop trying to apply a capitalist agenda monetise education via student loans and academisation.
    7.Disband OFSTED. Too much ill will exists against it because of the heavy handed interaction of some inspectors with the teaching profession and the insistence of the inspectorate to promote ideals that have little basis on research and even less in reality. Replace it with a politically neutral crown inspectorate.
    8. Apply the metric: 1 lesson of teaching = 1 lesson planning + 1 lesson marking / assessment and pay for it.
    9.Appoint a secretary of state who has the courage to reduce the content of the courses so that teachers can devote adequate time to honing appropriate skills in the children rather than sacrificing skills based learning to the god of “cover all the content”.

    Do none of these things and we will fall into post literate times where no one is skilled enough to fix our technology when it breaks because no one can do the calculations and no one knows a screwdriver from an awl.

    In the end, it’s not just Government, it is all of us that need to make a change to the way we interact with the educational process. Stop giving the educators grief. Make it socially unacceptable for the media to give the message “hey kids, homework sucks- oh and school sucks too”. Stop giving the educators pointless and meaningless things to do on top of the already unreasonable load just because big data can be manipulated to score cheap points in elections. Start trusting teachers to do their jobs. The vast majority of teachers I have met through my career work very hard and make many sacrifices. Start treating education as if it really is important by accepting that you have to pay for an appropriate service level. Note that I have said nothing about the pay of teachers. All of the measures I have stated are to do with workload and the desire to deliver the best. Last of all, treat the teaching profession with the kindness courtesy and respect it deserves since, although we work hard to educate the children, they are after all, only the children of other people and not our own.

  9. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    I got out three and a half years ago and moved abroad. it was the best decision that I have made. I love my job of TEACHING chemistry.

    Agreeing with everything said above the only thing I have to add extra is – If you think it is bad now, look down the pipeline for ten or even five years time. Further salary cuts, Further pensions cuts even more daft paper work. And that’s if this present shower are re-elected. You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to predict this chaos.

    I watch with interest from afar.

  10. I am not surprise her. Apart from what my colleagues before me have said, the amount of bullying, harassment, workload, etc going on school is amazing. I am not going to continue teaching anymore as I had more that my lot of problems, unreasonable targets such as I have to pass all students even if they don’t get their work done or don’t attend school. Young teachers are leaving education as they are not treated as professionals.
    Until the government treat the teaching professional with respect and teachers are respected the government can continue to expect a decline in new and experienced teachers.

  11. I have been a supply teacher for nearly 13 years and have seen this trend of less and less new teachers joining the profession year on year.
    There is a correlation between student’s behaviour getting worse and schools less prepared to support their teachers (not at all if you are supply) and that can’t be an attractive incentive.
    I became a supply teacher as soon as I qualified and cover all subjects as my skills and learning is vast. I am just a teacher who just teaches and couldn’t be happier and when I travel to different educational establishments I hear the same contempt for the profession.
    If government / schools made it more attractive by implementing rather then promising a “Life to work ratio” they would retain more mature teachers which take the trainee teachers “under their wing” and this would aid in retention of teachers.
    The ugly truth as I have seen is the way that trainee teachers are plucked when they are young and saddled with debt (from university) forced to work long hours due to the crippling workload and general stress off teaching and burn out somewhere in their early 30’s. If they do survive they are then planning for their early retirement, this is not living.
    I leave others to have their say and make comment.

  12. Steady folks, it isn’t just teachers it is lecturers at colleges and universities too who are feeling the pinch. We don’t get paid as well as teachers, we don’t have as many holidays as teachers and we have just as much work to do with the expectation that we too will work weekends and evenings to prepare for lessons, mark assignments and do all the required paperwork.

    I teach 3 days per week and to maintain a decent living wage I work elsewhere for 2 days a week but this is only short-term contract work and will end at Christmas. I do my lesson prep at the weekends, I do my marking in the evenings and at the moment I am preparing schemes of work for the next term. It can take me up to 3 hours of travelling time to get to and from work and when I return home I am the chief cook, bottle washer and dog walker.

    Yes, it is just as bad for the poor college lecturers too, who also love the time spent with their students but loath the fact that all their spare time at work (such as it is) is taken up with meetings, training and preparing endless reports.

    Merry Christmas? It may well need to be just to wind down for the 4 days I will be allowed to have off!

  13. There have been some excellent responses from teachers. For my part I would like to identify some of the negatives for potential teachers.

    Firstly, whilst some of Gove’s reforms were for the better, they reinforced the idea that education is a political football, which a labour government would feel obliged to change and change. I would not want to come into a profession which seems to lack stability and continuity. Only essential change then for the next ten years would be a start.

    Secondly, the Unions are unprofessional. The way they conduct themselves may put off many thinking of teaching. They are against everything any government tries to do. As a potential teacher I would want a union, which worked with the other unions (do we need three?) to identify best practice in world education and put forward its own proposals for change, being procative and not reactive.

    Thirdly, if the supply of teacher is falling the obvious solution is to pay more to new teachers and review the salary structure. As I have proposed additional costs when there is a need for costs to be cut, I would pay for this by changing 11-18 schools to 11-16 and only having sixth form colleges. The often ludicrously small classes I have taught over many years have no economic justification. This would also reduce the demand for teachers.

    Fourthly, schools should be places graduates aspire to work in. Sadly, too many schools are not like that. Success in London has shown it is possible to change schools, so that the overwhelming majority of students focus on educational attainment and achieve high standards. Discipline (aka behaviour management) needs to be a school’s and Ofted’s key criterion for without that learning will not flourish.

    We can but dream!

  14. Sadly, I agree with all of the comments above, including those of John. I to made the jump to teaching overseas and rediscovered my love of teaching, rather than child minding and form filling. While these problems remain, added to by a society that sees teachers as fair game for all social ills I will be amongst the many that will look from afar and say I AM GLAD TO BE OUT OF IT…

  15. Having read all the comments I have to agree.
    I qualified in 1999, always wanted to teach for as long as I remember.
    I gave day and night, my sons first years and my relationship to the job. I wasn’t rewarded for it ! I hear all day from people who haven’t actually taught for years how I should do my job ( they are the experts ) but I sometimes feel like I got more than I bargained for the day I received my qts !
    I am a mother to other people s kids that is, not mine because I m never home though people always hasten to tell me how LUCKY I am to have all these holidays to spend with my son, when I catch up on marking, planning, organising exciting trips, etc taking advantage the classroom is kids free ! I am expected to accelerate progress, deal with children’s home crisis and issues, restrain behaviour, provide outstanding all singing and dancing lessons all day every day , attend meetings then go home and work till midnight. All that for what ?
    Because I wanted to care for children, give them the best of my skills and knowledge to contribute to their brighter future.
    I have never known of other professionals treated so un gratefully. We are not trusted, we are questioned, checked upon, dissected regularly and undermined always.
    I don’t enjoy my job anymore, I tell anyone who thinks of training what the reality is because actually, the pay is not great , the conditions are appalling and there certainly is no recognition of our dedication from officials.
    If I had the chance to do something else, I d jump ship.
    It’s sad because ,without education, where would ministers and big salary earners be ?
    There’s a few good teachers who gave up their lives to dedicate it to educate children behind all of them.
    Food for thought on why trainees are shying away ….

  16. If UK government let to give such kind of work to foreign teachers from East Europe (for example from Russia where most teachers are universal ones – multi subjects specialists), this problem can be easily solved.

  17. My husband and I were both teachers of about ten years’ standing. We left the profession, and literally got our lives back. Now we see with great sadness, anger, and empathy for our eight year old’s teachers, the things that happen at his school: pe kit, unused, from one week to the next, because ‘there isn’t time'; tests each week, the results of which don’t seem to inform anything; a desperate looking forward to his teacher’s PPA day, not because he doesn’t like his teacher, but because that is the day he can do music, languages, art, and BREATHE.
    Please teachers, current and prospective, and parents, we need to stand up against this, and vote against it.

  18. I haven’t the numbers but i suspect it is a lot simpler than that.
    As someone who qualified in 2010 (just, I struggled) and applied for jobs late, I must have been one of the very few qualified maths teachers ever without a job, but I know quite a few of my colleagues were also unemployed that September. I applied for some dreadful jobs and accepted an even worse one that January.

    But that was 2010 and the DoE was congratulating itself on Teach first and all the teachers it was hiring.
    All that was really happening was that there were no jobs in the real world, and all those maths teachers that usually quite after 2 or 3 years were saying “I’ll just hang on one more year till the job market picks up”. They’ll be quitting quite happily now, and getting jobs easily enough.

  19. “Teacher shortage”? According to teachers and the media there has been a shortage for 25 years. Yet somehow schools have always been more or less fully staffed. When I applied for a job at the age of 50+ I hardly ever was shortlisted. I have been working overseas because UK is so ageist. Now I am over 60. Not much chance of the pension rights and other benefits that UK teachers enjoy. Try working in an excrement-hole like NIgeria, and then you will know how lucky people are who live in Europe.

  20. I must agree with many of the comments above, particularly the excellent comment by Marcus Harman. I also took the advice of the president of ATL who said that teachers in the UK have two choices, stay and fight or go abroad to teach. I am now in China where I have a sustainable teaching load and no disruption during lessons.

    I also agree with the comment made by Rich. Who would want to enter a profession where you cannot retire until 66 but won’t be employed after the age of 50?

  21. I agree with the comment by Rich and Carol. So far, only complaints from those who actually have a teaching job, but as a 50+ professional, with good teaching experience abroad, I have had absolutely no response from any college to my more than recent 30 job applications. I have an undergraduate and recent Masters degree and 30 years of work experience to share with youngsters, plus the bonus of having raised two kids of my own, so I think I can handle most class room situations. Sadly, there is absolutely no interest from recruiters in the teaching profession, so any talk of a shortage seems quite exaggerated from my point of view.

  22. I qualified just over 2 years ago and I am definitely sometimes feel I will not going to last long in this profession. I am already feeling burnt out and that makes me feel pretty useless to be honest. I love my lessons and my students but it is a continuous balancing act, in which my home life is suffering. My partner has had cancer this year and I felt I could not support him because I was worried of missing lessons. I am lucky – I am young enough to get out and still form a (different) career. Who knows what yet, as teaching is all I ever wanted to do.

    Being a Mathematics teacher I am pretty sought after, so think the government should start paying more to those on the list – to encourage people to stay, I certainly don’t think I am paid enough for the hours I put in (but that is across the board for all teachers)

  23. I used to think I had the best job in the world, not the best pay but enjoyable, rewarding and manageable, this was in Scotland in the late 90s and early 2000s. Now I find myself in the English system; the constantly changing syllabus, which is a publishers’ bonanza as schools have to invest in new books every 2 or 3 years, schemes of work constantly need to be altered/rewritten, more prep time gone. The final straw was the excessive observations which under Gove became a firing charter for headteachers. My school got a new head, he wanted to go to academy status (that’s another destructive attack on teaching – schools are not and should never be a business), he bullied good and outstanding teachers out of their jobs because they were on M6 or UPS. It was horrendous, I ended up having a breakdown, as I was on this list of the too expensive. I have returned to teaching but have lost my loyalty, I fear observations; this is what he used, he lied about what did and didn’t happen. I now do supply and short term contracts to avoid the excessive observation, but of course have no job security, but then there is no job security on a permanent contract, but at least you will be paid when you’re off sick with stress and mental health issues, another cost schools can ill afford. My pension and career have been destroyed, but I know I was good, I had the evidence. As an aside, I’m no longer a youngster and 12 hour days are no longer a possibility, I have nearly killed myself falling asleep at the wheel on the way home – why would anyone want to qualify for this “profession”?

  24. My heart goes out to Angela. This is such a typical story. The bottom line these days is not providing the best in teaching but cutting costs. Get the youngest, cheapest teachers. Experience is not valued at all. And that is why tutoring is booming.

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