In a week full of education statistics, there was none more significant than this: the number of teachers in England has fallen – and for the first time in six years – heightening concerns around recruitment and retention.
New Department for Education data showed that while the rate at which teachers were leaving the profession has remained constant over the past two years, the level of new entrants has dropped off.
This has resulted in the number of full-time equivalent teachers falling from 457,200 in 2016 to 451,900 in 2017.
A deeper dive into the numbers highlighted another worrying trend: some 15 per cent of teachers who qualified in 2016 were not in service just a year later – up from 13 per cent for the 2015 cohort.
Not only this but these figures were published on the same day that rising pupil numbers were also confirmed.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, summed up the concerns. “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.”
It was timely then that the week began with the launch of a major new Tes campaign aimed at preventing international teachers from having to quit their jobs.
The #LetThemTeach campaign was launched following a Tes investigation which revealed that desperately needed international teachers are being forced to quit their jobs and leave the country at short notice because they cannot renew their visas.
To stop this from happening, we are calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the "shortage occupation list", which gives higher priority for visas each month.
School funding claims
Tes editor Ann Mroz has sent a letter – signed by the leaders of the major teaching unions – to education secretary Damian Hinds and home secretary Sajid Javid asking them to prioritise teachers’ visas.
Hinds was pressed on this by MPs when he appeared before the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday but he did not give a commitment to put the teaching profession on the shortage occupation list.
The secretary of state was also not keen to be drawn on how much money he believed his department needed to ensure that the education system was fit for purpose.
Committee chairman Robert Halfon repeatedly asked him for a figure as the Government approaches the next comprehensive spending review.
However, Hinds would only say that across the age range of education the department "was constantly working to ensure we have the right resourcing".
This response might have frustrated MPs but perhaps the wisdom of keeping numbers close to your chest was demonstrated that same day.
It began with a bold announcement from the School Cuts Coalition. It had worked out that the government was failing to honour its promise of protecting per-pupil funding in real terms over two years. Instead, this funding was dropping by £59 per pupil, it said.
However, this is not actually the case.
The DfE pointed out that the coalition had failed to take into account £450 million of the funding it was providing next year. The next day the coalition’s claim was withdrawn.
For campaigners battling for the hearts and minds of the wider public on school funding, this will have to go down as a swing and a miss.