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A report from the National Audit Office highlights growing teacher shortages as the Government accuses unions of “scaremongering”
Despite spending £700 million a year on recruiting and training new teachers, the Government has missed its recruitment targets for the last four years, according to a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO).
According to figures published today, between 2011 and 2014 the number of teachers leaving the profession increased by 11 per cent, while the rate of vacancies and temporarily filled positions doubled from 0.5 per cent to 1.2 per cent.
The new report suggests that secondary schoolteacher training places were the hardest to fill, with 14 out of 17 secondary subjects with unfilled training places in 2015/16 compared with just two subjects with unfilled places in 2010/11.
Furthermore, there has been a rise in the number of classes being taught in secondary schools by teachers without a relevant post-A-level qualification.
Citing physics as an example, the NAO revealed that the proportion of classes taught by a teacher without a qualification in the subject rose from 21 per cent to 28 per cent in the four years to 2014.
Having spoken to training providers and schools, the NAO revealed that the range of routes into education was “confusing” for applicants, which could be contributing to the shortages.
The report accused the Department of Education (DfE) of having a “weak understanding of the extent of local teacher supply shortages” with particular problems in disadvantaged areas of the country.
While figures suggest that the overall number of teachers has kept pace with changing pupil numbers, the report concluded that “until the Department meets its targets… we cannot conclude that the arrangements for training new teachers are value for money.”
Commenting on the report, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said she hoped the report would spur the Government into action, following initiatives that had failed to have “any real effect”.
“It is hard to fathom why, given the scale of the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, the DfE does not have the data to quantify teacher shortages reliably,” she said.
“Potential teacher trainees are confused by the different routes into teaching, and the DfE is not working closely with school leaders to identify those areas of the country where teacher recruitment is particularly problematic.
“We have urged the DfE to give universities three year targets so they can plan ahead and have some certainty about their future income.”
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, accused the Government of being “in denial and neglectful” of teacher shortages, saying that the NAO report should be a “wake up call”.
“The teacher recruitment and retention crisis is serious and growing, with schools struggling to get teachers with the right qualifications in front of classes in subjects vital to our country’s economic success, such as maths, science, English and modern foreign languages,” she said.
“Having enough high-quality teachers is the first job of any Education Secretary, yet year after year [Nicky Morgan] has failed to attract and retain enough teachers in our schools. This record of failure is threatening school standards and the future success of the next generation.”
(Lucy Powell, the shadow Education Secretary Photo: Elliott Franks / i-Images)
However, a spokesperson from the Conservative party accused teaching unions of “scaremongering” saying the “negative picture painted” was the “greatest threat to recruitment”.
“The greatest threat to recruitment is the negative picture painted by Labour and the teaching unions, who take every opportunity to talk down teaching as a profession,” they said.
“Rather than constantly scaremongering to create cheap headlines and sound bites, we urge the teaching unions and the Labour party to back our plans to recruit the brightest and the best to the teaching profession and to address local recruitment challenges where they occur.
“We are yet to see one positive idea from Lucy Powell since her appointment. She has no plan for education and no appreciation of the work this Government has done to raise the status of the teaching profession and make teaching an attractive career choice.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “This report makes clear that despite rising pupil numbers and the challenge of a competitive jobs market, more people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it, there are more teachers overall and the number of teachers per pupil haven’t suffered.
“Indeed the biggest threat to teacher recruitment is that the teaching unions and others, use every opportunity to talk down teaching as a profession, continually painting a negative picture of England’s schools.
“The reality on the ground couldn’t be more different, with the quality of education in this country having been transformed by the most highly qualified teaching workforce in history, resulting in 1.4 million more pupils being taught in good and outstanding schools compared with five years ago.
“But we refuse to be complacent and are determined to continue raising the status of the profession so that every child has a great teacher.
“That’s why we’re investing hundreds of millions in teacher recruitment, backing schemes like Teach First and the National Teaching Service to get great teachers where they are most needed, and why we’ve given schools unprecedented freedom over staff pay, to allow them to attract the brightest and the best.”
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