Maths teacher shortage

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics has reported a shortage of qualified teachers of mathematics. According to some news reports they mention schools with several vacancies and schools drafting in teachers of subjects such as PE and geography to teach the subject. I couldn’t find any evidence on their web site when I looked this morning so I cannot check out the evidence base.
When I looked at the TeachVac data the number of trainees recorded by the DfE ITT census last November was 2,186 in 2014/15. This number was below the DfE Teacher Supply Model indicative number for trainees required, but not alarmingly so. However, that tells us nothing about the quality of those accepted into training through either school-based or higher education routes. A minimum level of mathematics in a degree, say two years of subject study post ‘A’ level, might help here.
As of yesterday, TeachVac had identified 2,538 advertisements for classroom teachers of mathematics. Two further pieces of data are key to understanding this number. Firstly, the number of adverts that either on the one hand contain multiple vacancies or on the other hand were re-advertisements because a vacancy could not be filled. Secondly, the percentage of vacancies filled by new entrants to the profession. The DfE rule of thumb over a recruitment cycle appears to be 50%, as discussed in other earlier posts on this blog.
Taking all this into account the 2,386 trainees, this translates into just under 5,000 vacancies across a whole year. The recruitment cycle can be considered to run from January to December. The TeachVac advert figure is still well short of that level. Now it may be that there are more multiple vacancies being advertised that we are picking up. Schools that enter vacancies directly can indicate the number of posts on offer. There may also be regional differences. London and the two regions adjacent to the capital have accounted for 52% of the recorded advertisements, so it is likely that any problem is greatest in and around London despite the higher pay rates on offer and the presence of Teach First in the capital. There are also vacancies for January to consider.
There are also some early murmuring in the media today about mathematics GCSE pass rates that are also out today. I don’t know whether there is a link between these two stories, but it might seem likely if qualifications matter in the teaching of a subject. In any event, we do need good management information on the recruitment cycle so that in future recruitment problems can be dealt with as they arise and not ducked by government. In addition, if there are two thirds of graduates in sub-optima careers and maths is the most popular’ A’ level, why are we having difficulty recruiting trainees into teaching? As regular readers know, I have suggested how we can make teaching as a career more attractive in several earlier posts.
One thing is certain is that if there are issues in teacher supply in mathematics now, then there are more severe problems in other subjects. Next week will see the publication by UCAS of applications for courses starting in less than month for the 2016 output of teachers. Any further shortfall against places will mean more problems in 2016, and not just in mathematics.


5 thoughts on “Maths teacher shortage

  1. Anecdotally, I understand that at our place recruitment for Maths PGCE has been reasonable this year but the quality of applications has been a bit down, in terms of academic background, experience, and how they have come across at interview.
    A couple of related points: TeachFirst are able to recruit a proportion of their maths specialists from not-obviously-mathematical degrees, where HEIs would definitely be requiring at least a Maths SKE; this is a help with maintaining the number of maths teachers in TF areas although I would have thought TF tough enough without having to fill in SK too.
    Despite trying hard, the DfE/NCTL haven’t allowed us to start offering joint specialism secondary PGCEs. We had 196 applications (before closing the course at about Christmas) for 5 university-led PE places, and some of them have a reasonable maths background, so there is clearly scope for Secondary PE with Maths, which would offer schools extra options for at least KS3 maths.
    Also, if the NCTL funded Maths SKEs for them then applicants with a PE-related degree could do a suitable Maths SKE and then do a PE with Maths PGCE and that would produce maths teachers that could go to GCSE and really know their maths thoroughly.
    Finally, when I trained at I.M.Marsh / Liverpool JMU there was a very successful PE B.Ed. that was PE and… for everyone, with plenty of PE and Maths trainees. It was the PE bit that attracted them but the B.Ed. was long enough to really develop competence in the maths whereas that’s more of a problem on a PGCE; needless to say that is long gone.
    The DfE/NCTL still have a bunch of options on the table for maths. They all add complications for providers, and we’re stretched pretty thin already with the move to SD, but there are options out there.

    • Thanks for that helpful summary. I think there is also scope for a SKE post training to boost quality and help supply the January vacancy market. The cost to government would be little more than a pre-entry SKE and it could be more easily targeted at parts of the country with shortages. Let’s hope the new regime at NCTL is more open to solving the ‘challenge’ of teacher supply rather than just relying upon the market.

      • The SKE+ for qualified science teachers works really well. For maths, the question would be where they would cme from. I suppose if there were more PE teachers than PE jobs a school could employ and make use of SKE+ but at the moment there aren’t loads of spare PE teachers because allocations are controlled. Mind you, I’m expect a total bunfight at the end of October – strongly suspect offers for PE will be made faster than NCTL can track, and when they close a load will squeak through over target before providers can be stopped. It’s going to be interesting, for sure.

      • We think that there may be a glut of PE teachers, some perhaps with sports science degrees so am interested in knowing whether PE student son PGCE courses were able to find jobs this summer? Since recritment was 120% of target in 2014/15 there has been a history of over-recruitment that makes a pool of unemployed teacher seven more likely. If NCT polices over-recruitment on targets then the interesting question is what happens to recruitment to the undergraduate PE places if PGCE overshoots?

        John Howson

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