New figures show extent of the recruitment crisis

24th November 2017 at 00:00
Government figures highlight training and staffing shortages, as rolls continue to rise

The Scottish government this month published two sets of figures that gave an insight into the extent of the country’s teacher recruitment crisis.

They showed whether universities had hit their student teacher recruitment targets – figures that previously went unpublished until Tes Scotland reported them – and also the number of advertised vacancies in schools when a snapshot was taken in September. Here, we examine the figures.

What do the figures show?

While primary schools might be struggling for staff, universities can fill the places they are allocated by government and more. The figures ( show universities exceeded their target for recruiting primary student teachers by 137 this year.

Secondary is a different story, though. Overall, the government hoped to train 2,162 secondary teachers this year, but managed to fill only one in four places – universities recruited a total of 1,624 teachers to their undergraduate and postgraduate secondary courses.

What are the implications?

The figures bode ill for the future. Official projections are that primary school rolls are going to stabilise but secondary rolls are going to rise “as the peak in primary school-aged children over the past five years can be seen to be shifting to secondary school”.

These projections were reflected in the target intake numbers for 2017-18, which saw the target for the one-year PGDE secondary course – the most popular route into secondary – rise by 30 per cent. Next year, it is projected that target numbers on the secondary PGDE will have to rise again.

Primary student recruitment targets for the current academic year, meanwhile, remained steady, but analysts say numbers should start falling dramatically from next year. The government’s statistical modelling exercise has projected that numbers on the undergraduate primary courses will remain steady, but on the postgraduate courses they drop from 1,000 to 450. The government, however, has stressed that these figures are not targets but “a starting point for discussions”.

Which secondary subjects were toughest to recruit to?

The universities had a modest target of five Gaelic teachers and failed to recruit any. The next worst-hit subject was technological education (71 per cent of places unfilled); maths (53 per cent); home economics (46 per cent); music (42 per cent); English (37 per cent); modern languages (36 per cent); RE (33 per cent); and computing (32 per cent). In all the other subjects, 70 per cent or more of the target was recruited.

Was the target number of students hit for any secondary subjects?

Targets were hit or exceeded for psychology, PE, modern studies and history. Overall, when over-recruitment is adjusted for, around a third of places on secondary postgraduate courses went unfilled – although the government estimates that its new routes into teaching will ultimately deliver another 281 primary and secondary teachers.

What did the teacher-vacancy statistics show?

In September, there were 816 permanent teacher vacancies across pre-school, primary and secondary, up from 685 last year. The government said this was a permanent teacher vacancy rate of 1.6 per cent. The research also shows there were 29 headteacher or depute headteacher vacancies, compared with 30 last year.

Is this cause for concern?

Headteachers continue to say that schools are being blighted by teacher-recruitment problems. The consensus is that teacher recruitment is better or worse, depending on which part of Scotland you are in – and which subject you are trying to recruit into.

The highest number of vacancies that had remained unfilled for three months in any authority were in Highland. The authority had 29 permanent teacher vacancies in primary and preschool. In secondary, it was 33.

Maths and English were the subjects that most commonly had advertised vacancies. This is unsurprising, perhaps, given that there are more maths and English posts than for any other subject, but the picture is still worse than last year. This year, there are 71 maths vacancies (53 in 2016) and 65 in English (49 in 2016).

Anything else?

The survey is “a snapshot of advertised vacancies”, so situations where schools have simply stopped offering a subject because they cannot recruit a teacher are not reflected.

Figures published last year highlighted that 17 per cent of Scottish secondary schools had no computing specialist, yet the figures show only nine computing teacher job vacancies.


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