Schools have the jobs, so where are the staff?

15th August 2014 at 01:00
Warning of recruitment crisis as pressure and pay deter applicants

Schools have warned of an impending recruitment crisis, with a third of governors admitting that they are struggling to recruit leaders and classroom teachers.

A national survey of more than 2,300 governors carried out by TES and the National Governors' Association (NGA) reveals a "significant" increase in the number of schools finding it "very difficult" to attract strong candidates. One in three (34 per cent) of respondents say their schools are finding it tough to attract headteachers, up from 27 per cent last year, and 32 per cent are struggling to recruit classroom teachers.

NGA chief executive Emma Knights told TES that recruitment problems were being reported in primaries and secondaries, with English teachers proving particularly difficult to attract, as well as teachers of traditional shortage subjects.

"We have had a significant number of members telling us they are having difficulty recruiting teachers.and it isn't just in subjects like maths, physics and chemistry," she said. "Now we're hearing about difficulties in English as well. This is not just in rural areas; we're hearing of problems in urban areas, particularly in London and the South East of England. Questions must be asked."

The survey's findings reflect concerns raised in June by Jon Coles, chief executive of academy chain United Learning. He told a conference at London's Roehampton University that the country was "entering a period of teacher shortage".

Jeremy Rowe, headteacher of Sir John Leman High School in Suffolk, said the county had a "real problem" in attracting new teachers. "It's very difficult, especially for the schools in remote rural areas," he added. "Even though teachers can move here and afford to buy a house in their twenties, lots of schools really struggle. There is a problem."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that it was hard to recruit heads of department, with pressure to meet government targets putting classroom teachers off applying for such positions.

"The accountability system, and the pressures that come with it, has become a deterrent to promotion for many teachers," he said. "They are not prepared to take on the ever-increasing targets for exam results."

Mr Lightman also criticised the "patchy" provision of trainee teachers under the School Direct scheme, which places the responsibility for recruiting and training new teachers with schools rather than universities. In 2013-14, some 15,400 training places were allocated through the programme, but critics have expressed concern about whether sufficient places would be offered to meet schools' need for trainees. For 2014-15, 18,000 of the 39,000 initial teacher training places available are being offered through the School Direct programme.

"In some areas it's working well, but in others it plainly isn't," Mr Lightman said. "We're seeing some anomalies and place allocations are not being filled. It's causing a lot of uncertainty, with people scrabbling around to try and fill empty places."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said the picture was "varied", with some regions being forced to manage with low allocations. He called for a "proper balance between core [university] places and School Direct places in order to minimise any regional shortages".

The TES and NGA survey also shows that few governors expect teachers to benefit from performance-related pay. Under the new structure - designed to bring an end to automatic incremental rises each year - schools are expected to link a teacher's annual pay rise to their performance in the classroom. The first increases are due to come into effect next month.

The Department for Education (DfE) has claimed that these reforms will allow schools to pay their best teachers more, but just 6 per cent of the governors surveyed say they expect more teachers to receive a pay rise than under the previous system. Almost one in five (17 per cent) say they expect that fewer teachers will see their salary increase, with 57 per cent predicting "little difference" overall.

And schools are proving reluctant to take advantage of the freedoms offered to them by academy status, with just 29 per cent of academy governors saying their school has deviated from the national curriculum.

A spokesman for the DfE said: "There are now more teachers in England's classrooms than ever before - a rise of 9,000 on the last year - and the growing network of teaching schools is helping to develop the next generation of great headteachers for our schools. Our teaching workforce is among the best in the world."

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