Government told: 'Act now to head off dearth of teachers for EBac'

21st January 2011 at 00:00
University training departments fear their allocations will not be enough to meet demand for key subjects

National and regional shortages of teachers in the subjects demanded by the English Baccalaureate are likely unless the Government acts now to make sufficient changes to teacher-training allocations, universities are warning.

The organisation representing university teacher-training departments thinks schools may already be looking to "re-balance" staff to reflect the new GCSE league-table measure. That could mean extra demand for history, geography and language teachers and the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) fears the training allocations expected imminently may not have taken adequate account of the change.

"If schools are going to change the balance of subjects, then the supply model that predicts the number of teachers needed will need to be adjusted to take account of it," James Noble-Rogers, UCET's executive director, said. "At the moment, to my knowledge, it hasn't and that could lead to national and regional shortages."

Mr Noble-Rogers said that modelling supply needs will be difficult because no one knows quite how schools will react to the EBac.

The warning came as heads were still digesting the implications of the inclusion of the measure in last week's GCSE league tables.

To gain the EBac pupils must achieve at least C-grade GCSEs or IGCSEs in English, two sciences, maths, history or geography and a language.

Teacher recruitment expert John Howson said the EBac could make supply of history teachers a particular problem. His research, completed before the new measure was introduced, showed there was already a shortage, with only enough new teachers to meet 86 per cent of the current demand in history.

He said geography would be easier and supply of language teachers would be "OK" because schools had cut back faster on them than the previous government had anticipated when languages were made optional at key stage 4.

Professor Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, a sister company of The TES, said there were already a third more new RE teachers than were needed - an oversupply that could get worse unless ministers reverse their decision to leave the subject out of the EBac.

The Government has publicised a YouGov poll showing that only 22 per cent of the public believe RE should be included in the EBac.

Two-thirds of the representative sample of 1,518 adults disagreed with ministers on English literature and said it should be in the measure. But the poll suggested general agreement with the subjects the Government has included.

Professor Howson said that schools were restricted in what they could do to rebalance their staff to meet the needs of the EBac. Tight budgets meant they could not simply bring in additional geography, history or language teachers.

"If a head wants to start more history groups in September they have either got to have a vacancy they can fill with a history teacher or they have got to make someone redundant. But there is barely enough time to do that. So the full effects of the Bac may not be seen this year," he said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The teacher supply model which is used to calculate the number of trainee teachers needed each year considers a number of factors, including demographics (ie pupil numbers), teacher turnover rates and policy developments."

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