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Vicky Short questions the Government’s commitment to tackling the escalating problem of teacher recruitment

Secondary schools across the UK are facing a shortage of qualified teachers as the number of staff in this role has fallen by over 10,000, nearly five per cent, since 2010.

The National Audit Office’s (NAO) recent report (Retaining and developing the teaching workforce, September 2017) showed that not only is the number of teachers in secondary education dropping, but student numbers in the classroom are on the rise. With over 3.2 million 11- to 18-year-old’s now in school, a number that has been steadily increasing since 2013, the shortage of teachers couldn’t have come at a worse time; many schools are facing serious recruitment challenges when it comes to hiring and retaining staff with the skills and experience required.

Schools in the South East of England seem to have been hit the hardest by this dip, with over 25 per cent reporting at least one vacancy in the staff team, and Amyas Morse, Head of the NAO speaks of her concern over the report, saying that “there is a risk that the pressure on teachers will grow”.   

What are the causes?

Nearly 35,000 teachers left the profession for reasons other than retirement in just 2016 alone, and with this figure making up eight per cent of the industry, it is vital that we start taking this mass exodus seriously. Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier said that one of the main reasons causing teachers to leave the profession before retirement is the heavy workload expected of teachers in the secondary school system. School leaders backed this up, with further research from the NAO showing that 67 per cent believed a grossly heavy workload to not only be the reason for teachers leaving the industry, but also a deterrent against new staff wishing to join the profession. With data from the Department for Education suggesting that many teachers average a 54 hour working week, these findings start to make a lot of sense.

What support is in place?

The short answer to this question is “not a lot”, at least when it comes to governmental input. Despite the issue of a staff shortage being one that the Government urgently needs to address, 85 per cent of school leaders feel under-supported in building and maintaining a strong and experienced staff team, demonstrating that the Department for Education has not offered clear information to teachers and schools on how to work together to build a better working environment.

Government spending has also fallen dramatically with only £37.5 million being given to teacher development and retention and £34.2 million to improving teacher quality last year, compared to the £555 million that was spent on training and supporting teachers in 2013/14. Amyas Morse points out that “having enough high-quality teachers is essential to the effective operation of the school system”. This crisis is something the Department for Education is going to need to address sooner rather than later.

Further information

Vicky Short, Managing Director of Randstad Public Services:

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