Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post on this blog entitled ‘STEM subjects lead retreat from teaching’. Both the personal and public effects over the summer and into the autumn of last year were dramatic, with amongst other outcomes the first ever Statistical Bulletin to be issued during August on the topic of teacher supply. The longer-term outcomes should hopefully include the opening up of the Teacher Supply Model to public view later this autumn.
As we enter August again it is worth asking the question once more: how are we faring in trying to recruit enough teachers into training? There is still around a month to go before courses start, but with the need for candidates to take and pass the Skills Tests before entering a teacher preparation course, there is little time for many more recruits, even if schools had the appetite to work through the holiday period.
Data released yesterday by UCAS on the Unified ITT Application System and the number of offers made and applicants placed when measured against the lower of the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model number or the allocations made for 2014/15 suggests that the 2014 November ITT census could well record shortfalls in training numbers:
Biology – unless there are sufficient offers on general science courses
Design and Technology
With the exception of Computer Science and languages the list is depressingly similar to the subjects with shortfalls recorded in the 2013 ITT census.
If I am proved correct, and I hope that I am not, and the November ITT census reveals shortfalls against numbers required to enter training again this year, not only will it mark a failure in government policy, but also schools will find recruitment in some areas even more challenging in 2015 than this year just as the nation is in the throes of a general election. The number of debates and parliamentary questions during the past session of parliament suggest that the issue has not failed to attract the attention of the opposition at Westminster.
Should there be any worsening of recruitment into training for 2015 in any of these subjects, when compared with the springs of 2013 and 2014; it would be fair to conclude a real crisis in teacher supply will be affecting some schools just as pupil numbers are on the increase. At that point there will need to be a greater reliance on other measures to overcome shortages, such as persuading existing teachers to remain in the profession; seeking out more returners; and once again encouraging the recruitment industry to conduct more sweeps through the international teacher recruitment markets to fill the vacancies. Programmes of CPD to retrain teachers and better monitoring of the qualifications and deployment of existing staff should also be high on the government’s agenda now they cannot expect local authorities to undertake this sort of analysis for them, especially in areas where most secondary schools are now academies.
There is still time to avert the type of teacher supply crisis the Labour government sleep-walked into in 2003, but the warning signs must be not just heeded but also acted upon in such a manner as to produce results.