According to the official spending watchdog, teacher shortages in England are growing with the government missing their teacher recruitment targets for the fourth successive year. The National Audit Office Report has claimed that 28% of secondary physics lessons are being taught by teachers with no more than an A-level in the subject.
While the overall number of teachers has increased, the teacher shortage is still growing. According to the report by the National Audit Office, poorer areas and secondary schools seem to be the most affected. More than one in two head teachers at schools with large proportions of disadvantaged pupils find attracting and keeping good teachers a ‘major issue’.
The National Audit Office reports that the Department for Education and Ministers have “a weak understanding of the extent of local teacher supply shortages and whether they are actually being resolved.” The report also indicated that the DfE has a lot more to do to actually understand and confront the issues local and regional schools currently face.
This year the government failed to recruit enough trainees in the majority of secondary subjects, 14 out of 17 had unfilled training places this year, compared to just struggling to fill only two subjects five years ago. The report also claimed that the government had spent £700m a year on recruiting and training new teachers. Despite this large financial outlay, they are still missing their own targets by an increasing margin every year.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO believes “that until the department meets its targets and can show how its approach is improving trainee recruitment, quality and retention, we cannot conclude that the arrangements for training new teachers are value for money”. The National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower called the figures “a sad indictment” of the government education policy, “unless government radically tackles the pay, workload and excessive accountability that teachers currently suffer, this is a situation that will get increasingly worse.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the report made clear “that despite the rising pupil numbers and the challenge of a competitive jobs market, more people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it. There are now more teachers than ever and the number of teachers per pupil hasn’t suffered”. The spokeswoman continued to say that “the biggest threat to teacher recruitment is the teaching unions and others who use every opportunity to talk down teaching as a profession, continually painting a negative picture of England’s schools. The quality of education in this country has been transformed by having the most highly qualified teaching workforce we have ever had. This has resulted in 1.4million more pupils being taught in ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools compared with five years ago.”
So is the recruitment crisis under control? The government claim that there has never been more teachers. Yet head teachers are complaining that they are having to employ agency staff to fill the voids left by unfilled vacancies. Could this be due to the lack of quality of teachers currently available? Or is it just the simple fact that there are not enough teachers? Both of which contradict the claims by the Department for Education. What do you think? Have your say here…