Overall teacher numbers in England have fallen, according to new official figures which will heighten fears about the retention and recruitment.
The fall – the first in six years – is revealed in Department for Education statistics out today. They show that while the percentage rate of teachers leaving the profession remained constant between 2016 and 2017, the rate of new entrants declined.
So the overall number of full-time equivalent teachers fell by 1.2 per cent, from 457,200 in 2016 to 451,900 in 2017. Heads said the figures showed there was a "serious threat to educational standards".
Since 2011, there had been more people entering teaching than leaving.
Source: DfE school workforce November 2017
But in 2017, the 42,430 new entrants to teaching in state-funded schools were outnumbered by the 42,830 FTE qualified teachers who left teaching.
The number of full-time equivalent teachers in secondary schools fell by 1.9 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016 and the numbers in primary fell by 0.6 per cent over the same period – until now primary teacher numbers have grown every year since 2010.
The teacher vacancy rate for all state-funded schools has remained at 0.3 per cent – with a slight rise in the number of vacant posts from 920 in 2016 to 940 in November 2017 when the census is taken.
The figures also show that the number of temporarily-filled posts has dropped slightly from 0.9 per cent (3,280 posts) in 2016 to 0.8 cent (3,050 posts) in 2017.
Combined, the figures show there were 3,990 posts which were vacant or temporarily filled in November 2017.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is very worrying to see that the number of teachers in our schools has actually fallen at a time when the number of pupils is increasing.
"We are already in the midst of a long-running teacher recruitment and retention crisis and this is set to worsen unless action is taken as a matter of urgency. The number of pupils in our schools is set to rise by about 500,000 over the next five or six years and unless we can attract more people into the teaching profession, and retain them, it is hard to see how schools will be able to put teachers in front of classes.
"This situation represents a serious threat to educational standards, particularly in schools in areas of high disadvantage where it is often most difficult to recruit teachers."
“The government spent too long in a state of denial about this situation and, having finally woken up to the problem, has simply not done enough to address it."