England third-highest in Europe for teaching shortages

New OECD report shows England has the third-highest teacher shortages in Europe and the eighth-highest in the world

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England has the world’s eighth-biggest problem with secondary school teacher shortages, and the third-highest level of shortages in Europe, a major new study reveals.

The latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has found that 37.6 per cent of England’s secondary school leaders reported a shortage of qualified teachers that had a negative impact on teaching and learning.


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School leaders were asked whether shortages of qualified staff hindered a school’s capacity to deliver instruction “quite a bit” or “a lot”.

In Europe, only Italy (where 41.1 per cent of school leaders reported this was an issue) and Belgium (where 46.5 per cent of leaders said this was a problem) had higher figures. The only other territories with bigger problems than England are Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, UAE and Brazil.

More than 250,000 teachers and school leaders at 15,000 primary, lower- and upper-secondary schools from 48 countries took part in the survey.

In England, 72.9 per cent of teachers said that “reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff” was a number-one spending priority, compared with 65 per cent of teachers across all OECD countries.

Teachers in England also raised the issue of workload, with 66.1 per cent reporting that teachers’ admin load should be eased by recruiting more support staff, compared to 54.6 per cent of teachers worldwide.

England's schools were also found to have higher-than-average levels of intimidation of teachers

Workload is seen as more of an issue than pay. England's teachers were less likely to prioritise improving salaries compared with the OECD average, with 53.4 per cent stating teacher salaries should be a spending priority compared with 64.2 per cent on average across all countries.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “These findings reflect many of the frustrations that I heard from teachers and heads when I first took on the role of education secretary and underlines the importance of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy that I launched in January of this year.

“We know that too many teachers are having to work too many hours each week on unnecessary tasks, which is why I have taken on a battle to reduce teachers’ workload so that they can focus on spending their time in the classroom doing what they do best – teaching.”

In England’s primary schools, the issue of teacher shortages was seen as a less pressing concern. Of a small sample of fifteen countries, England had one of the lowest reported rates of teacher shortages from school leaders, with just 11.6 per cent of school leaders reporting this as an issue compared to 79.5 per cent of primary school leaders in Vietnam.

While 64.6 per cent of primary teachers in England reported that “reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff” was a spending priority, this was below the average of 67.8 per cent among the 15 countries that responded.

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