Education & Family

Missed targets 'signal teacher recruitment crisis'

Teacher in front of a class Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Many schools are already struggling to recruit newly trained teachers

Targets for the number of new trainee teachers in England have been missed for the third year running, prompting concerns of an intensified recruitment crisis in schools.

This year, 28,148 graduates began initial teacher training courses, representing 94% of the target figure.

At secondary level, where population increases are set to hit schools next year, just 82% of the target was met.

Ministers said they had redoubled their efforts to attract top graduates.

But head teachers and academics say there is no doubt the existing recruitment crisis is going to intensify in the next academic year.

'Standing army'

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman said: "We continue to be immensely concerned about the teacher recruitment crisis which is affecting schools all over the country."

Education recruitment expert and honorary research fellow at Oxford University John Howson said: "There is clearly going to be a crisis for the 2016-17 academic year in some parts of the country."

Because of the high numbers of teachers needed in England's schools and the high level of staff turnover - about 7-8% of the workforce - between 35,000 and 40,000 newly trained teachers are needed every year, experts say.

This is equivalent to half of the UK's standing army or roughly the whole of the Royal Navy.

This year, a large increase in the need for secondary schools for teacher trainees was factored in to the government estimate, known as the Teacher Supply Model.

This is because a population bulge is due to begin hitting secondary schools from autumn 2016. It is estimated that there will be an extra 800,000 pupils in secondary schools by 2022.

However, the recruitment of trainee secondary school teachers is the sector that has fared worst in terms of missing its target.

Highly skilled

Government statisticians estimated that 18,451 new secondary trainees would be needed for the next academic year. Just 15,114 were recruited on to courses for secondary subjects.

The government stresses that not all teachers who newly enter the state sector are coming directly from teacher training courses.

It says about half tend to be returners to the profession or those new to the state sector - ie those from private schools, abroad or trained teachers, who have never taken up a teaching post before. These are accounted for in a separate part of teacher supply calculations.

Mr Lightman said: "This means that there are more than 3,400 fewer secondary trainees entering the profession this year than are needed.

"There are serious shortfalls in the core subjects of maths and science, and also in languages and geography, both of which are also English Baccalaureate subjects.

"The government wants 90% of pupils to sit GCSEs in the English Baccalaureate subjects. How will this be possible when there will clearly not be enough teachers for them?"

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the figures highlight what most in education already know: that teacher recruitment levels are at a critically low point, particularly in subjects such as physics, RE and design and technology.

"What the figures don't capture is that even in subjects where recruitment appears to be close to target, those trainees might not be where they're most needed once they're qualified. They also don't capture the ever-increasing workload and a growing gap between private and public wages in a context of high rents and mortgages, which are driving many excellent teachers out of what can be a deeply rewarding profession."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "With the economy improving, we have redoubled our efforts to attract top graduates.

"Today's figures show that teaching is still a hugely popular profession, with over 1,000 more graduates training to teach secondary subjects - including record levels of trainees holding a first-class degree.

"I'm delighted that for the first time the majority of teachers are being trained on school-led routes in the classroom from day one and learning from the best teachers. This is a testament to the popularity of Teach First and School Direct."

There has been a deliberate shift to a more school-led approach to teacher training in the past few years. But all teacher training courses include substantial amounts of time for trainees based in schools.

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