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Science and maths shortfall expected

The new academic year will begin in secondary schools with thousands of jobs still vacant, says John Howson.

Several thousand science and mathematics teaching posts will be going begging in secondary schools this September.

On average, every secondary will be short of at least one qualified maths or science teacher, judging by the huge discrepancy between the tally of job advertisements in The TES and the number of new entrants emerging from the training colleges.

The annual total of adverts for science teaching posts in maintained and independent schools has risen from just over 3,000 to just under 8,000 over the past two years - a huge rise of 150 per cent.

In maths, the increase has been from under 3,000 to over 7,600. However, fewer than 1,400 would-be maths teachers started training courses last autumn, and a further 2,600 enrolled on science courses.

Add to these totals a proportion of those who entered through the expanded employment-based route and, even if all were successful, we will probably see no more than 4,500 new entrants ready to start teaching in the autumn.

Allowing for natural wastage, the total of new teachers available to teach maths and science is probably nearer 4,000 and may be as low as 3,500.

While not all the 15,500 job adverts were for new entrants, and some may have been repeat adverts, the shortfall may be as many as several thousand teachers. Overseas recruits, more instructors, plus an increase in "out-of-field" teaching, seems the inevitable outcome for September.

John Howson is managing director of Education Data Surveys. Email int.edu@lineone.net

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