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Shortage of English and maths teachers puts college funding at risk

A shortfall of more than 2,000 English and maths teachers risks jeopardising FE providers’ efforts to comply with new government funding rules, a college leader has warned.

As a result of the 2011 Wolf Report into vocational education, colleges that recruit students without at least a grade C in GCSE maths and English are required to ensure that they are working towards attaining these qualifications.

From September, providers that fail to do so will see all of their funding withdrawn for every student who misses out.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges, told TES that there is an estimated current shortfall of around 1,200 maths teachers and 1,000 English teachers across colleges and schools in the post-16 sector.

According to official statistics published last year, almost half (49 per cent) of school leavers go on to attend FE or sixth-form colleges or other FE providers.

With many students who struggled in mainstream schooling progressing to the FE sector, Ms Mercer said that it bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for helping those who missed out on GCSE English and maths first time around to catch up.

Colleges also struggle to match the pay on offer in schools, she added, with some lecturers leaving to take up school teaching jobs with salaries more than £8,000 higher than those on offer in FE.

“We have to get more teachers into the system,” she said. “We can’t compete with the pay and conditions on offer in schools.

“This is a hugely difficult job. [FE students] may have failed maths or English once or twice [at school] and been told they’re a waste of space. They arrive in college completely demotivated.”

In addition, while many college maths teachers take basic skills and functional skills courses, they are not necessarily trained in GCSE maths components such as statistics and trigonometry.

While the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics and the Education and Training Foundation are currently developing FE-specific programmes to address the problem, Ms Mercer told TES that more maths and English teachers are needed in the sector.

“We need to get the message out, ‘Come and teach in FE’,” she said. “Something needs to be done.”

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