Worrying drop in full-time secondary teachers

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

New figures showing a rise both in the number of teacher vacancies and temporarily filled posts are the “tip of the iceberg” it was said this week.

Statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) last week show that there were 920 teacher vacancies as of November 2016 – up from 730 in 2015.

Meanwhile, the total number of temporarily filled posts was 3,280 – up from 2,870 in 2015.

On top of this, the figures show a 2,700 drop in the number of full-time teachers working in secondary schools. In 2015 there were 210,900 but this has now fallen to 208,200.

Overall, there has been a rise in the number of full-time teachers by 400 to 457,300 in 2016. However, this is the smallest annual rise in recent years and there is concern because at the same time secondary pupil numbers are due to increase by 10 per cent by 2020.

The figures show that after remaining static for three years, the pupil-to-teacher ratio has risen for the last two years. It now stands at 17.6 compared to 17.4 in 2015 and 17.2 in 2013.

The figures also show that 27 per cent of secondary schools reported having at least one advertised vacancy or temporarily filled post on the census day in November, up from 23 per cent in 2015.

Retention also continues to be a challenge for schools, with the figures showing that only 69 per cent of teachers are still working in schools five years after qualifying.

Commenting on the number of teacher vacancies, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These figures are worrying enough in themselves but represent the tip of the iceberg. Schools have to put teachers in front of classes. What the figures don’t show is the enormous difficulties many have in doing so, repeatedly having to re-advertise posts, and using a range of strategies to cover lessons. These may include combining classes and using teachers who are not specialists in the subjects they are teaching.”

Meanwhile, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned of the impact of Brexit as teachers from the European Union make up 20 per cent of new teachers registered every year.

He added: “It is now becoming urgent that a national strategy on recruitment and retention, as NAHT has campaigned for, is created. Without this, schools will continue to struggle to recruit the highly qualified teachers they need.”

Mr Barton added: “The problem is that we aren’t attracting enough people into teaching in the first place, and then we are not retaining enough of them. The government has to lift the teaching pay cap and better incentivise teaching, and it has to work with the teaching profession to develop a career strategy which better develops and retains staff.

“Teaching should be an exciting, fulfilling and joyful career, and we all need to work together to make sure that it is, and that we constantly celebrate this great profession.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The DfE must take the rise in the number of teacher vacancies, widely recognised to be an underestimate, as a clear message that it needs to act fast to address the deepening teacher shortage crisis. If it fails to act soon, even more schools will struggle to find a qualified teacher for every class.”

  • The DfE’s statistical bulletin – School Workforce in England: November 2016 – can be found at http://bit.ly/2t87nf3


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