Teacher shortages likely to continue for a decade

6th November 2015 at 00:00
Demand for new staff will peak in 2019 – but will not be met on current trends

Schools are facing 10 years of teacher shortages, TES can reveal.

Demand for new staff will not peak until 2019, according to a little-noticed section of the latest version of the Department for Education’s teacher supply model. It shows that the number of teachers needed in secondaries each year will continue to be higher than the current – unmet – demand until at least 2026.

Rising pupil numbers and recruitment problems mean the DfE is already missing targets for new trainees.

“We are looking at the prospect of another decade of teacher shortages,” teacher workforce expert Professor John Howson told TES. “I am seriously worried about how schools are going to fill places.”

The disclosure comes in the week that the DfE launched a National Teaching Service in an attempt to help plug staffing gaps. “I’m acutely aware that recruitment isn’t easy at the moment,” education secretary Nicky Morgan said, claiming that the service would be a “key part in solving this problem”.

The service’s remit is to deploy 1,500 outstanding teachers to underperforming schools by 2020. But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said that although “struggling schools” could benefit, “parachuting in teachers” was “not the solution” to teacher recruitment and retention problems.

The struggle for staff

TES has learned that some schools are turning to former pupils to bolster their staff and others are using financial incentives to try to “poach” teachers from other schools (see panels, right). However, research published by the NAHT headteachers’ union today reveals that schools will find it increasingly difficult to fund such incentives in future.

Nearly two-thirds of school leaders (64 per cent) are making “significant” cuts or dipping into reserves to stave off budget deficits, according to a survey of NAHT members.

Professor Howson said coping strategies now being used by schools could mask the true extent of the recruitment problem. He added that the government’s data collection was also distorting the picture.

“The DfE collects the vacancies in November when schools are fully staffed,” he said. “But they are asking the wrong question. The question should be: how many jobs turned over in the last year and how many were filled inappropriately or caused the schools to change the curriculum because they couldn’t fill it with their desired outcome? Ministers haven’t got a clue.”

The teacher supply model, published by the DfE last month, shows that the net number of extra teachers needed yearly will peak in 2019 at 24,550 – a 5 per cent rise on 2015. The figure includes those returning to teaching and new trainees. The government failed to meet its targets for secondary trainees in 2013 and 2014.

Allan Foulds, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If I were a parent, I would not be at all happy with the idea that if my child is in the middle of primary school, this situation is going to be perpetuated until their GCSEs. We have to think of different ways of recruiting.”

A DfE spokesperson said the number of teachers in England’s schools was at a record high, more people were returning to teaching than ever before, and the number of teachers recruited in “most secondary subjects” was up on last year.

An expert’s view: ‘We can’t afford to lose women to other professions’

Professor John Howson, a Norham Fellow at the University of Oxford and director of TeachVac, writes:

Teacher shortages will continue to get worse while we have more pupils in secondary schools, unless either the government intervenes to make teaching more attractive as a career or the economy slows down, cutting the number of other graduate jobs – of which there is not yet any sign.

You have to ask the macro question: what are we trying to achieve with our education system? And what mix of teachers do we need to achieve that? If our aim is high-level subject knowledge taught by subject experts to everybody in a certain range of subjects, then clearly we are failing to deliver that. We are not providing the number of teachers.

Across the economy, there is also a drive to get women into a greater range of jobs. Who have we relied on in teaching over the past 20 years? Women. If teaching loses its unique selling point to women, we’re facing a new challenge. We can’t afford to lose women to more attractive jobs.

In maths, the number of job adverts is not wildly disproportionate to the number of people in training. But they may be in the wrong places, or may not be of the quality schools want.

What the government is not doing is the research into this, to feed back an understanding of how to move forward. That makes it much more difficult to solve the problem, because we don’t know what the problem is.

Roger Pope’s first task as chair of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (the agency responsible for teacher supply) is to get a grip on what we need to do to solve this crisis.

I am surprised that a recruitment tsar hasn’t yet been appointed.

Where ex-pupils are drafted in to fill the gaps

Schools are increasingly turning to former pupils to plug the gaps in their staffrooms.

At Parmiter’s School in Watford, Hertfordshire, former students are now teaching and training to be teachers.

“We’ve always invited students to join the Old Parmiterians, but it used to be just a social network,” says Jan Stevens, deputy headteacher. “Now, in the past three or four years, we have started actively contacting former students and asking them if they want to become teachers.

“They don’t bypass anything. They still have to apply through Ucas. But it encourages them to apply. Sometimes it may not even have occurred to them to become a teacher.”

The school is also holding its first recruitment fair for teacher trainees in December, in conjunction with other local schools.

In his previous role as chief executive of the Cabot Learning Federation in Bristol, Sir David Carter, now regional schools commissioner for the South West, ran a year-long work-experience course for Year 12 students who were interested in teaching.

“Some of them were almost as good as our trainee teachers, they were naturals,” Sir David says. “If, as a school, you have a commitment to eight or nine kids who want to come back as potential employees, then you’d be foolish not to look at that. I know a lot of schools that are doing similar things.”

Helen Ward

Vic Goddard: ‘Staff are being poached’

More teachers in shortage subjects are being “poached” during organised training days at other schools as the recruitment crisis bites, TES understands.

Vic Goddard, principal of Passmores Academy and star of TV show Educating Essex, has stopped running “best-practice days” – where teachers spent an Inset day at another school to learn methods – after losing a maths teacher and an English teacher to the schools involved.

“[Best-practice days] were run to help teachers see what can be done differently and to help their career progression. It was not about poaching somebody,” Mr Goddard (pictured, inset) tells TES.

A number of other teachers – mainly in maths and science – also returned from the training days with improved job offers, but they decided to stay at Passmores even though Mr Goddard couldn’t match the salaries being offered.

“It’s opportunistic headhunting,” he says. “The system is creaking around staffing and some people are losing their values and integrity.”

Last year, a maths trainee at Passmores was offered a higher salary at the school where she carried out her second placement. Mr Goddard adds: “I have to be quite careful when choosing the second placement now. I only send them to schools that I trust.

“I don’t see it getting better and it’s a worry for me. I am one maths teacher short, so I understand the pressure. But my integrity and reputation is more important than one maths teacher.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of headteachers’ union the NAHT, tells TES: “It’s a measure of the desperation of headteachers as the recruitment process gets harder and harder.”

Eleanor Busby

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