Exclusive: Two-thirds of secondaries can’t find maths teachers

Tes and National Governors Association research reveals worrying new evidence about reality of recruitment crisis

Martin George

People are put off training to become a teacher because of poor pay and high workload, one union warns

Two-thirds of secondaries are struggling to recruit maths teachers, according to worrying new evidence on the extent of the recruitment crisis.

Only funding eclipses teacher recruitment as the most important issue facing schools, the results of a major Tes and the National Governance Association (NGA) survey have revealed.

It also found that more than half (51 per cent) of secondary school governors have difficulties recruiting physics teachers and 40 per cent say the same for chemistry.

NGA chief executive Emma Knights said: “We think there are more and more people having to teach subjects that they were not initially qualified to, so they are not subject specialists. That is what is disguised by these figures.

“By definition, not having a subject specialist teaching pupils is something that parents worry about as well as governing boards.”

Ms Knights said that while recruitment had long been a problem for some schools, this year’s data shows that “now it can be anybody”.

Research published earlier this year found that less than half of maths and physics teachers held degrees categorised by the Department for Education as "relevant" to what they teach.

The DfE said it was working with teachers, school leaders, Ofsted and the unions to develop its recruitment and retention strategy and reduce workload.

Recruitment was named as the second most important issue facing schools, selected by 50 per cent of governors. Only funding, which was chosen by 71 per cent, ranked higher.

The survey also found:

  • 47 per cent of governors said it was difficult to attract good candidates for teaching posts;
  • 39 per cent said the same for other senior staff posts;
  • 38 per cent said the same for headteacher recruitment;
  • Finding good candidates for teaching posts was hardest in Outer London, followed by the South East, the East of England and Inner London;
  • Finding good candidates for senior staff posts was hardest in Outer London, followed by the South East and the East of England;
  • Finding good candidates for headteacher posts was hardest in the South East, followed by Outer London, Inner London and the East of England.

Ms Knights said: “We have known for a number of years that it can be very difficult to recruit in some places, to some types of schools. I think the difference now is that our data shows there aren’t places that are completely protected from that.

“When I started this job we would say ‘ok, it’s Catholic schools, it’s small schools, it’s rural schools, it’s schools in special measures that have trouble recruiting senior leaders’. Now, it can be anybody.

“There’s no place where it is bound to be simple any more, where you are protected or guaranteed.”

When seeking teachers, senior staff and heads, schools rated “inadequate” by Ofsted found recruitment hardest, with the situation getting easier as Ofsted grades improved; the survey found.

More than 5,000 school and academy governors and trustees took part in the annual survey by Tes and the National Governance Association (NGA).

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The education secretary has said that there are no great schools without great teachers and his top priority is to make sure teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession.

“There are more than 450,000 teachers – that’s 11,900 more than in 2011 – with increasing numbers returning to the profession.

“But we want to continue to attract the best and brightest to work in our classrooms, which is why we are working with teachers, school leaders, Ofsted and the unions to develop our recruitment and retention strategy and to strip away unnecessary workload.”

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