The government needs to worry less about school structures and more about ensuring that schools are properly staffed, Ofsted’s chief inspector said today.
In particular, Sir Michael Wilshaw drew attention to the worsening recruitment problems at secondary school level, resulting in a less-qualified workforce.
In his final annual report as chief inspector, published today, Sir Michael said: “My advice to the government now is to worry less about structures and to worry more about capacity. No structure will be effective if the leadership is poor or there are not enough good people in the classroom.”
The report highlights the fact that secondary schools are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff. This year, only 82 per cent of secondary training places were filled, compared with 94 per cent of primary places. In 2015-16, 15 out of 18 secondary subjects had unfilled places. By contrast, no subjects had unfilled places in 2011-12.
The report also highlights that inequalities in staffing are most pronounced in areas with selective schooling. Grammar schools tend to have stable staffrooms, with large numbers of very experienced teachers, while secondary moderns struggle to recruit teachers, it says.
Gaps in teacher supply
“Good teaching depends on good teachers,” the report states. “In recent years, the gaps in teacher supply have affected the ability of schools to recruit the teachers needed for pupils to reach their potential.”
In physics, for example, fewer than three-quarters of places were filled. In design and technology, fewer than half of places were filled.
“This also has implications for the quality of entrants,” the report states. It quotes a recent National Audit Office report which predicted that training providers were likely to accept trainees with lower degree classes on to shortage-subject courses.
In the year from November 2014 to November 2015, more than 43,000 qualified teachers left the state sector. This is equivalent to one in 10 teachers leaving the profession: the highest proportion for 10 years, according to the report. The number of vacancies and temporarily filled positions in schools has doubled since 2011.
In addition, the proportion of secondary teachers leaving the profession is increasing. There were 2,500 fewer full-time secondary teachers in 2015, compared with 2014.
These shortages have been felt acutely in schools in more challenging circumstances, the report states. The percentage of unqualified teachers in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils is close to double that of schools with few disadvantaged pupils.
And teachers are almost twice as likely to leave a secondary school with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils than they are a nearby school with low numbers of these pupils.
Headteachers in the North West have reported competing for teachers in hard-to-recruit subjects in "auctions", the report says.
And Sir Michael also said that schools were finding it difficult to recruit headteachers. Two-fifths of governors reported that they were struggling to fill senior staff posts. This is also true in multi-academy trusts, he added.
“It is the quality of leadership that determines the performance of the trust,” he said. “More good people to lead trusts are needed, as much as more good leaders of schools.”
Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook