Fiona Millar: Teacher recruitment ‘a mess’ as every school slugs it out for itself

Writing in the Guardian, Fiona Millar says that abandoning government control of teacher supply has caused shortages in some areas and a surplus in others – just as pupil numbers soar.

…According to Prof John Howson from Oxford University, who has studied the teacher jobs market for more than 20 years, the government’s bullish stance conceals some uncomfortable truths. “The claim that teacher numbers and vacancies remain stable is technically true,” he says. “But chronic shortages are emerging in some regions and some subjects which may be masked by a surplus of applicants elsewhere.”

Howson recently set up a free website, TeachVac, to help schools match vacancies to teachers in their area.

Problems are most marked in secondary schools, he says. “Heads are forced to fill vacancies before the teacher census data is compiled in November. In some cases, this is with unqualified or non-specialist teachers, rather than leaving classes without a teacher. This makes the numbers look more secure, but raises questions about quality.”

Given that a further 800,000 pupils are anticipated in the next decade, “if there isn’t a crisis now, there clearly will be in the future”, he says…

The decision taken by the former education secretary Michael Gove to relinquish central government responsibility for teacher supply in 2011 now looks increasingly flawed, especially in the light of last week’s revelations about the chronic shortage of school places. Prof Chris Husbands, who recently moved from being director of the UCL Institute of Education to vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, another large teacher education provider, explains: “The government largely abandoned the national teacher supply model. So it has no clear idea how many teachers it needs as it has by and large abandoned planning. It assumes schools can predict their supply needs, but they can’t. That’s the strategy that is not working.”

A diversification of teacher training routes with a strong preference for school-based schemes, such as School Direct – to which candidates apply directly – rather than university-based courses, also appears to be failing. The government dictates the number of training places in each subject, but there is little central direction about where they are taken up…

But recruitment is only part of the problem, says Stephen Tierney, executive director of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust: “We can’t recruit our way out of this problem. We have to hit retention too…

More (including a response from the DfE) at: Teacher recruitment ‘a mess’ as every school slugs it out for itself


There appears to be a bit of a perfect storm here with a rapidly growing school age population, an improving economy (making competitive jobs more attractive), buts cuts and the new supply models Fiona Millar discusses here.

Do you think these changes in structure are helping to contribute to the recruitment challenge? Giving where we are now, what would you change first to make things better?

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Categories: Policy and Teaching.


  1. TW

    “Howson recently set up a free website,”

    How does this site differ from existing recruitment sites other than featuring what  seems to be commercial advertising?

  2. BinksNeateEvans

    SchoolsImprove until recruitment crisis touches the lives of policy makers and their children’s school it will not be heard

  3. Maruta_Wataru

    SchoolsImprove Maybe the first place to look might be the teachers barred by the NCTL the_college? They can’t ALL have been guilty!

  4. AlfredoNokez1

    Squeezing the life out of university-led ITT is having a terrible impact. Tory policy – bigger classes for state schools!

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