STEM subjects face 'triple whammy' of pressure in recruiting teachers, MP says

24th February 2014 at 13:29

Maths and science are facing a "triple whammy" of pressure on teacher supply due to the government's reforms to the subjects, the chair of an influential panel of MPs will warn today.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, is due to praise the coalition's plans to encourage more students to take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, at a science conference this afternoon.

But he will say that the increase in numbers, along side a raft of other government policies to improve STEM education, will significantly add to pressures in teacher recruitment in the subjects.  

"There are...reasons for us to be cautious about how successful the government's drive to recruit more and better STEM teachers will prove to be, " Mr Stuart will tell the SCORE annual conference in London this afternoon.

"Ministers are taking three key steps to strengthen STEM education.

"First, they are encouraging more students to study STEM subjects. Second, they are toughening up the curriculum, making it considerably more demanding.

"And third, they are introducing compulsory maths in post-16 education for those who fail to get a C at GCSE.

"These are all laudable steps in their own right. But it seems to me that the government's plan risks creating a triple whammy, which will worsen the pressure on teacher supply in the STEM subjects," he will say.

It is compounded by the fact the economy is recovering, he will add, meaning competition for graduates will be even greater. 

Recent figures showed that 72 per cent of physics training places were filled in September 2013 and 90 per cent of maths training places. 

Moves to attract people into teaching include offering top science and maths graduates scholarships and bursaries of up to £25,000 to train. 

But John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, said that as the economy recovers, the attraction of generous bursaries will fade: “The problem with offering £25,000 as a bursary is that you need to make sure trainees can earn at least that when they start teaching,” he said.

“The government is going to have to step up a gear. I’ve been saying for some time that we are heading towards a teacher supply crisis unless they do something about it.”

Figures given to the School Teachers’ Review Body by the government show that if all maths lessons were to be taught by specialist maths teachers, an extra 5,500 teachers would be needed. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "There has never been a better time to be a teacher. We have introduced bursaries and scholarships worth up to £25,000 in subjects like maths and science, and we have ensured heads can pay great teachers more.

"Our changes are working. Vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2005 and the current generation of young teachers is the best ever. More top graduates are coming into teaching than ever before and more are coming from the best universities."



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