Rather late in the life of this government the DfE seems to be learning some basic economic truths. Mostly notably they have discovered that when there is a shortage, the price goes up. However you dress up the announcement (made on a bank holiday Monday) that the DfE has done a deal with big business to deprive them of maths PhDs and to divert these scare resources into teaching at a price of perhaps £40,000 plus on-costs per year it must be a reaction to a shortage somewhere.
Indeed, just last week the DfE published an interesting paper on Indicator 19 of the School Workforce Survey showing the percentage of teachers with a relevant qualification teaching in English, mathematics, and the sciences across secondary schools had declined in all three subjects between the first School Workforce survey of 2010 and the latest conducted in 2013. This is despite improved coverage of the curriculum indicator across schools meaning that teacher coverage has increased from 66% to 81%, although the effective coverage rate has remained static at just under 75%.
The decline in the percentage of maths and science lessons taught by teachers with a relevant qualification – at least an ‘A’ level in the subject – is not a surprise. In view of the reductions in training numbers for teachers of English the fall from 88.4% to 84.8% in the percentage of English lessons taught by those with a relevant qualification must be a wake-up call, and vindicates some of the comments made on this blog over the past year. This is not a case of needing to pay more, but of increasing the training numbers to meet demand.
If I were a current maths teacher, or one in training, I would be paying special attention to the details of the DfE announcement when they appear and deciding what line I would take tomorrow with my head teacher. Now that schools have been removed from the shackles of a rigid pay scale, and left to fight out salaries with their staff many maths teachers may now find it worthwhile asking for a pay rise on the back of today’s announcement. This is especially if they teach Years 11-13. Their colleagues in the FE sector might also look to see whether the announcement is enough to seek a transfer into the school sector.
A helpful HEFCE publication http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce/content/pubs/2011/201133/11_33.pdf shows that there were just 255 UK domiciled starters of full-time PhDs in the mathematical sciences in 2009-10, plus a small number of starters on part-time courses. Allowing for non-completion, this might generate around 200 possible new maths teachers, if all new UK domiciled PhDs in the mathematical sciences were diverted into teaching. As a morale booster, it certainly sounds good, but those sorts of numbers are only half the figure the DfE calculated in its evidence to the STRB that would be needed to extend maths teaching to all post-16 year-old pupils just in schools. This number would do nothing to alleviate the growing shortage of qualified maths teachers for years 7-11 in secondary schools.
Although worth a try, especially as it probably isn’t costing the government much in hard cash, this scheme seems more of a gimmick than a solution to a problem the government seemingly now acknowledges needs solving.
This blog has been based upon press reports and will be updated after the DfE publishes the details of the Scheme.