There is no teacher recruitment crisis, schools minister Nick Gibb insisted this week, provoking “serious alarm” among headteachers who are struggling to find staff.
In his first education interview since the general election, Mr Gibb was asked by TES about school leaders’ increasing difficulty in filling teaching jobs.
“I don’t believe there is a crisis,” he said. “There’s a challenge and we’re managing the challenge.”
His comments came just two days before new government figures revealed that teacher vacancies had leapt by a third in a year.
Last month, TES revealed that Teach First, the country’s biggest provider of new teachers, believes England is experiencing its worst teacher shortage this century.
Mr Gibb said he was aware of the charity’s warning, but he insisted that the government was “recruiting lots of people coming into teacher training and if you look at acceptances as of now they are higher than they were this time last year”.
“Vacancies are very steady at about 1 per cent of the total profession and that has been consistent for about 15 years since the year 2000,” he added.
But teacher supply expert Professor John Howson dismissed his stance as “rubbish”, adding that the government’s teacher vacancy rates no longer compare like with like because they are now collected at a different time of year and exclude Christmas vacancies.
Ros McMullen, executive principal of the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, branded Mr Gibb’s comments “complete and utter garbage”. Like other headteachers, she believes schools are facing a “perfect storm” in recruitment.
“It shows how out of touch ministers are,” Ms McMullen said. “I have been a headteacher for 15 years and I have never known it so bad. The same is being said by my colleagues in schools in the leafy suburbs, in inner-city schools, in the North, in the South.
“Where it has always been difficult to recruit, it has become harder. Where it used to be easy to find staff, it is now difficult. Even heads in independent schools are finding it tough.
“I am seriously alarmed if we have ministers saying it’s the same as it has been for 15 years. It absolutely is not and it is very, very worrying if they believe it is,” she added.
But Mr Gibb insisted that the government was “not complacent” and knew there were challenges. “That’s why we have these bursaries for shortage subjects like maths and physics and foreign languages,” he said. “It’s why we continue the marketing activities and they are very successful.”
Read the full feature in the 3 July issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.