UK faces desperate shortage of science and maths teachers

The Independent is reporting the potential shortfall of science and maths teachers that we first covered last week but they have now interviewed the authors of the research behind the claims. This is an extract…

Research by Professor John Howson of Oxford Brookes University and DataforEducation, which specialises in analysing recruitment trends, has revealed that up to 30 per cent of maths places on PGCE teacher training courses due to start in September remain unfilled, potentially leaving schools 700 recruits short next year.

There is a similar problem with physics, where courses have attracted 386 fewer recruits than in 2012, while other key subject areas such as modern foreign languages and English are in a similar position.

Chris Waterman, co-author of the research, said that every missing maths teacher meant 150 secondary school pupils would be taught the subject by a non-specialist, putting 100,000 pupils at risk of receiving their education from someone who has no specialist maths training.

Professor Howson explained that when the jobs market is improving – as it appears to be at present, albeit slowly – potential candidates often turn their backs on the teaching profession.

He said: “The Government got complacent after the recession [in 2010]. Secondary school rolls were falling so we didn’t need so many teachers; we were coming to the end of the high spot of teacher retirements and we had all those people who wanted to come into teaching because there weren’t any others jobs available. The danger, though, was that this wasn’t going to go on.

“We’ve now had successive years when public sector wages have been held down, and regular stories about the problems facing the profession.  No wonder graduates in the Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects are accepting jobs elsewhere. That was always the risk.”

The way in which the top candidates are recruited has also undergone significant change in the past year, with fewer entering teacher training institutions and more being recruited directly by schools.

Professor Howson’s research is based on published recruitment figures for PGCE courses, plus data on the number of teachers recruited directly by schools from the Department for Education’s website.

It shows the number recruited in maths has fallen by 709, physics by 386, design technology by 350, chemistry by 345 and English by 343. English was one of the subjects that over-recruited last year, meaning the 343 shortfall left it just 113 teachers short of its recruitment target for 2012.

By contrast history courses have recruited 75 more candidates in 2013 than the year before, which is 170 more than 2012’s target.  The number of primary school recruits has risen from 20,760 to 23,380, coinciding with a bulge in the birth rate which has meant that the sector needs extra staff.

More at:  Exclusive: UK faces desperate shortage of science and maths teachers

It looks like some subjects are up and others are down so are the figures robust enough to conclude there is a meaningful issue in STEM subjects or could this just be a random fluctuation? If real, does this mean additional incentives will be required in those areas? Please let us know if  you struggling to find qualified STEM subject teachers at your school…

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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This has been coming for years yet ignored by govt. Worry is that recruiting is hard and numbers leaving is on the rise

  2. School Governor

    There are many capable people associated with schools who might well fill the breach on a temporary basis whilst suitable candidates are trained up. What I have in mind is to use people like myself who, whilst having no formal teaching qualification have sufficient knowledge of Maths and Science to teach under the leadership of strong Heads of Dept.
    I am a retired Engineering manager and thus worked my way through the mill working first hand with Trig and applied Maths. I am in my early 70’s and would love the opportunity to put my experience to good productive use. Another consideration is that my pension is now beginning to show its age and needs a little boost now and again.

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