Losing the teacher supply battle

This time last year I raised the question of whether we would recruit enough trainees to become teachers in 2014, in a post dated 1st June 2013, and headed ‘Missing the Target is a Known’. Sadly, I have to make the same prediction for the 2014 round that now has but three months to run before the majority of courses start in September.

With schools so heavily involved, and would-be trainees needing to pass the Skills Tests before starting their course, anyone that hasn’t applied by mid-July, effectively at some point during the next six weeks, will probably struggle to find a course unless the NCTL makes it clear to providers that they should recruit right up to the wire, as many universities have always had to do when recruitment was challenging.

The auguries for recruiting new trainees are not good. Recently the Association of Graduate Recruiters said that nine out of ten graduate employers still have vacancies for this autumn, with businesses in engineering and IT particularly suffering. Recruiters, they added, ‘cannot find enough quality candidates’. So the golden years of the recession, when a surplus of good quality graduates flowed into teacher preparation courses at the point in the demographic cycle when rolls in secondary schools were falling, and demand for teachers was declining, is over. We need more teachers and they are becoming harder to recruit.

My current predictions based upon data released this week by UCAS from the unified application process is that the following  subjects may well miss the lower of their DfE Teacher Supply Model figure or their NCTL allocation:

  • Biology
  • Design & Technology
  • Geography
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Religious Education

The jury is still out on Chemistry, but science overall is likely to face some sort of shortfall, if only because of the serious shortage of physics trainees. Although English will meet its target, I still do not believe we are training enough teachers, and governors still tell me that they are facing challenges recruiting such teachers in some parts of the country. It is significant that the TES job site has around 250 main scale positions for teachers of English today, but only around 200 for teachers of Mathematics.

Many of the subjects in the list where I expect shortages of trainees this year, were also subjects where there was a shortfall last year, so the warning that I and others made this time last year may been heeded, but has not been dealt with, unless you consider hiring unqualified personnel as the solution.

This year, there is also some nervousness about recruitment to primary ITT courses in some parts of the country. A shortfall there would be a real disaster, especially as schools with cash reserves will undoubtedly start upping the salary they are prepared to pay in the new de-regulated world of teachers’ pay and conditions. From there, it is but a short step to abandoning the principle of free schooling so parents can top up school coffers to help attract teachers through better pay. How that will affect the notion of fairness and equity only time will tell.



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