Recruitment crisis hitting standards, school leaders warn

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

A vast majority of school leaders have said that the teacher recruitment crisis is having a detrimental impact on the quality of education they are able to provide to students.

Yet more evidence of the teacher recruitment crisis has emerged after the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) carried out a survey of its members.

Of the responses from 900 school and college leaders – most from academy and maintained secondary schools – 84 per cent said that the teacher shortages are having a detrimental impact on the education they are able to provide.

Nine in 10 respondents said they are experiencing difficulties in recruiting teachers and nearly three quarters said the situation was worse than a year ago.

The subjects with the most recruitment difficulties were maths, science and English. Many also had problems with the English Baccalaureate subjects of languages, geography and history. The study, released ahead of ASCL’s annual conference in Birmingham this weekend, found that school leaders are having to use more supply agency staff (70 per cent) or ask teachers to take subjects in which they are not specialists (73 per cent).

A quarter of the respondents said they have had to merge classes in order to cope.

Secondary recruitment targets have not been hit for three years in succession now after it was revealed recently that only 82 per cent of teacher places have been filled for the 2015/16 academic year. It means that there are more than 3,400 fewer secondary trainees entering the profession this year than are needed.

And with the government wanting 90 per cent of children to be taking English Baccalaureate subjects at GCSE from 2020, the Department for Education’s figures show that not enough teachers have been recruited in EBacc subjects including mathematics, languages, science, geography and computing – a fact reflected by ASCL’s findings. In fact, only three subjects across the board have hit their targets – history (113 per cent recruitment against target), English (103 per cent) and PE (100 per cent).

One headteacher who took part in the survey said: “In my school we have found it very difficult to appoint a maths teacher after one resigned last year. The only way we’ve been able to provide a teacher for every maths class is to ask teachers of other subjects to step into the breach.

“This is hardly ideal – I have a non-specialist teaching one of the year 11 maths sets, for example – but there simply aren’t the teachers out there to be able to fill the gaps.

“Naturally we’re very concerned about the impact on our maths results this year. We’ve said more than once that it’s a good job Ofsted came last year – and gave us ‘good’. If they were coming back this year I would be very nervous about the outcome, given most teams’ intensive scrutiny of every maths and English teacher in school.”

Malcolm Trobe, ASCL’s interim general secretary, said: “Teacher shortages leave schools with no option other than to use stop-gap solutions. Schools have to put teachers in front of classes. If they cannot recruit the staff they need, this means using supply staff and non-specialists to cover the gaps.

“While these staff often do a very good job in difficult circumstances, it is no substitute for having permanent teachers who are experts in their subjects. Without this supply of teachers there is a danger that some of the progress which has been made will be lost. It will certainly be extremely difficult if not impossible to raise standards further. We are calling on the government to do more to promote and incentivise teaching as a career."


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