Exclusive: Unqualified teachers drafted in as maths staffing crisis deepens

Government plan to expand post-16 maths in jeopardy as teachers are quitting the classroom, study suggests

Helen Ward

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A bleak staffing crisis facing secondary school maths departments across the country is revealed in a new survey by the Mathematical Association, shared with TES.

The research shows how maths departments are increasingly relying on non-specialists, supply teachers and unqualified teachers – as experienced staff say the pressure on maths teachers and poor pay is driving them out of the profession.

Just 46 per cent of maths teachers said their departments were fully staffed for September, when the survey of 520 staff was carried out at the end of term, and 18 per cent said they still required two or more teachers. 

More than half (54 per cent) of the maths teachers surveyed said they were teaching alongside at least one non-specialist; while 29 per cent said there were unqualified staff in their department. Some 30 per cent of respondents said they would “probably leave teaching in the next few years”.

'Great discontent'

David Miles, spokesman for the Mathematical Association, said the latest study raised doubts over government plans to expand maths education post-16.

“We knew there were pockets of great discontent,” Mr Miles, who is also assistant head of Sir John Leman High School in Beccles, Suffolk, said.

“There are certain geographical areas where it is almost impossible to recruit. But when you read the comments they show that this is a problem all across the country.

“I am aware of people teaching A level who don’t have that level themselves; an awful lot of maths teachers don’t have maths beyond GCSE.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We continue to offer generous bursaries and scholarships for trainee maths teachers. We are also investing £67 million to transform science, technology, engineering and maths teaching in England by recruiting up to 2,500 additional maths and physics teachers, and providing subject knowledge training to 15,000 non-specialist serving teachers. We are actively supporting schools to encourage former experienced teachers to return to the classroom.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 29 July edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here 

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