Shortage worst for a decade

25th May 2001 at 01:00
Government statistics have confirmed that the present teacher supply problem is worse than it has been for a decade.

Although the Department for Education and Employment's annual January survey has been criticised for under-estimating the staffing shortages, the official data-gathering system is at least consistent. Thus, it is possible to detect trends in vacancies, if not actual numbers, with some accuracy.

Vacancies as a proportion of the teaching force reached an all-time high in 1990, at 2.1 per cent of primary teachers and 1.5 per cent of secondary staff. But because recruitment improved during the years of recession, and funding for schools tightened, the vacancy rate was low between 199496.

The closure of the early-retirement route in the late 1990s resulted in a smaller outflow from the profession that balanced the effects of declining ecruitment. However, vacancy rates have climbed in the past year - in both the primary and secondary sectors. According to the DFEE survey, vacancy rates doubled in secondary schools during 2000 and rose by a third in the primary sector. Secondary vacancies now match the record levels of 1990, and in some subjects are higher.

This January, the DFEE recorded 410 maths teacher vacancies in England. This compares with just 279 for England and Wales in 1990. Happily, there were fewer languages teacher vacancies - 250 compared with 366 in 1990.

The prognosis for the future is poor, at least in secondary schools. The extra student-teachers recruited last year will be barely enough to keep up with demand, and the position is likely to worsen next year.

John Howson The writer is managing director of Education Data Services

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today