Teacher shortage fears deepen as almost one in five secondary trainee places goes unfilled

19th November 2015 at 10:44
teacher training

Almost one in five secondary teacher training places for September 2015 have not been filled, government statistics released today reveal.

Just 82 per cent of secondary places have been taken up, compared with 94 per cent of secondary places last year – exacerbating concerns about teacher shortages.

There has been an overall rise in the number of trainees this year, but demands for more teachers to meet a growing student population and changes in the curriculum mean that this year’s targets have only been reached in three secondary subjects: history, English and PE.

And on non-English Baccalaureate courses less than two-thirds of the number of trainees required have been recruited (64 per cent) –  with design and technology being hardest hit, taking on just 41 per cent of trainees needed.

Also the targets in maths (93 per cent), languages (87 per cent), science (85 per cent), geography (83 per cent) and computing (70 per cent) have been missed.

John Cater, vice chancellor of Edge Hill University, Lancashire - one of country's biggest teacher trainers - said: “For shortage subjects in secondary there is real, substantial and significant problem. There are not enough sufficient people wanting to train to teach in mathematics, modern languages, the sciences or computing and that will have an impact on the delivery of the curriculum in those areas.

The shortfall comes despite a rise in the number of people starting postgraduate teacher training courses this year.

The initial teacher training census shows 28,148 trainees have started courses, or are due to start shortly. This includes 1,584 Teach First trainees, who have been included in the figures for the first time. This compares with 25,753 postgraduate trainees last year.

Primary courses have over-recruited, with 13,034 trainees taken on, against a target of 11,245. But this comes after under-recruitment in every year since 2010.

The new figures will deepen fears that the teacher supply crisis will worsen in the coming years.

Brian Lightman, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary said: "We are extremely concerned at the significant shortfall in new trainee teachers in secondary subjects. This means that there are more than 3,400 fewer secondary trainees entering the profession this year than are needed.

"The Government wants 90 per cent of pupils to sit GCSEs in the English Baccalaureate subjects. How will this be possible when there will clearly not be enough teachers for them?

“This is the third year in succession when the initial teacher training target has not been achieved. There is no doubt that this will have a serious impact on young people. It will inevitably mean that more classes will be taught by non-specialist staff and that there will be greater use of temporary cover. This is far from ideal and it is not what parents and children expect or deserve.

“We once again call on the Government to take urgent action to address this situation."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: "Recruitment to secondary programmes is becoming increasingly challenging, and will become more so as pupil numbers go up.

"Although primary targets have been met, we remain concerned that the teacher supply model is under-estimating the number of new primary teachers that schools actually need.

"In challenging times such as this, the government must take care to maintain the teacher supply base provided by university/school partnerships on which schools depend. Uncertainty, and the potential chaos linked to the new recruitment methodology, are not helping with this. The government needs to exercise caution in its teacher education reforms, just in case they make a bad situation worse."

Nick Gibb, schools minister, said: "Great teachers are at the heart of our drive to extend opportunity to every single child. With the economy improving we have redoubled our efforts to attract top graduates.

"Today’s figures show that teaching is still a hugely popular profession with over 1,000 more graduates training to teach secondary subjects - including record levels of trainees holding a first class degree. I’m delighted that for the first time the majority of teachers are being trained on school-led routes in the classroom, from day one and learning from the best teachers. This is a testament to the popularity of Teach First and School Direct.”

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