Recruitment: Starved of a vital resource

The education secretary’s promise to make recruitment his top priority is beginning to ring hollow, says Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union writes in SecEd.

The teacher shortage hit the news headlines in the last week of August, just as teachers and pupils were turning their minds to the term ahead with all its challenges and possibilities.

A report by think-tank, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) revealed the scale of the crisis in STEM subjects. The numbers of graduates choosing to train to become teachers are down five per cent across all subjects. Applications to train to teach physics are, alarmingly, 20 per cent down on last year.

Astonishingly, 50 per cent of physics and maths teachers leave the profession within five years of starting – a fact which only confirms the findings of the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into teacher recruitment and retention, which revealed that the government spends a huge sum – £555 million – on teacher training, but only £36 million on government-provided CPD. But the scale of the problem is not just national, it is also regional, and it disproportionately affects schools serving disadvantaged pupil in-takes. As if poor children did not already have enough disadvantages in their short lives, they are also much more likely to be taught by teachers who don’t have relevant degrees. 

Fewer than one in five physics teachers in the most disadvantaged schools outside London have a relevant degree. In maths, one in three have a relevant degree in disadvantaged schools, compared with around half of these teachers in more affluent areas.

Speaking recently to a head of maths in a large London comprehensive school, she revealed that six out of the 10 teachers in her department did not have a maths degree. She was exhausted, she confessed, with the strain and struggle of supporting them in the teaching of the new GCSEs.

Read the full article Recruitment: Starved of a vital resource

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