Is there a teacher recruitment crisis?

I have been asked a lot recently whether there is a teacher recruitment crisis. The answer is, it all depends upon what you mean by a crisis. In the TeachVac evidence to the Select Committee, published on the Committee’s website before Christmas, I attempted to put some numbers to the terms ‘challenge’ and ‘crisis’. So far as I am aware, nobody has offered an alternative scenario. Certainly, nobody has suggested one to me.

Ministers, however, have relied on the November Workforce census vacancies to suggest schools are fully staffed. More recently, during her speech to the NASUWT Conference, the Secretary of State quoted from a TES study that suggested 70% of vacancies were filled within four weeks of being advertised. No bad, but it means that 30% were not filled. As a head teacher I would be worried of around one in three of my vacancies weren’t filled quickly. That figure was presumably the average, so some will have done better, but others worse. Perhaps the DfE can tell schools at what point they should worry? 50% not filled within four weeks; 75%, or should they wait until they reach the position of the Oxford head teacher speaking on the BBC web site whose school attracted no applicants for a number of vacancies advertised?

At TeachVac, the free vacancy web site for schools and teachers, we are gearing up for the April vacancy rush. The job market has definitely become more complex and can be divided into a number of different segments. There are probably now three groups of trainees; those on programmes such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route that have posts assigned to them and don’t enter the open competition for vacancies; the trainees that sign up with recruitment agencies in the hope of reducing paperwork and securing a better salary. As this group increases, and the government is doing nothing to deter agencies from signing up trainees, or indeed other teachers, and asking schools for a finder’s fee, so the free pool of applicants diminishes. The government’s offer of the DfE’s free website won’t alleviate the drain on school resources by having to pay these fees. However, it might encourage some academy chains and diocese to become more involved in School Direct or SCITTs as part of a ‘grow your own teacher’ scheme.

The third group of trainees form the traditional ‘free pool’ of new entrants competing for the vacancies offered by schools. It is difficult to see how, if the DfE’s Teacher supply model is anywhere near accurate, any substantial under-recruitment into training will not affect the size of this pool to some extent. For that reason, Ministers generalised references to the overall position aren’t helpful. The recent National Audit Office report highlighted the lack of government knowledge of the real position in the teacher labour market nationally, let alone at a sub-national level.

Later this week TeachVac will publish its April newsletters for schools and teachers containing our analysis of the vacancy trends during the first three months of 2016. These are free to subscribers to the TeachVac site.



5 thoughts on “Is there a teacher recruitment crisis?

  1. I’m concerned about the ‘grow your own’ method. This means teachers are trained in one environment only which could make them less prepared for work elsewhere. A teacher ‘grown’ in a grammar school, for example, would only encounter high ability pupils. Similarly, a teacher grown within an academy chain may only use methods mandated by the chain. This makes them less suitable for teaching outside these systems.

    This will only worsen if the proposal in the White Paper re ITT that heads become response for accrediting teachers is passed. Where will be the external validation? The agreed standards? And judging from some of the financial chicanery we’re witnessing in high-profile academy trusts, how would the new system prevent nepotism with academy trusts fast-tracking relatives of trustees?

    • Janet,

      You and I don’t often disagree but in this instance I think that you first point could apply to any type of programme of preparation. There are instances of teachers being trained in one type of school, perhaps in a rural area, finding their first job in a multicultural urban area. I agree we should aim for more than one placement and in different types of school. at the very least awareness of the different environments teachers can find themselves in should be a part of the preparation to teach.

      As to accreditation, that for a very long time was based on passing a probation period and then being assessed by schools. I think it possible to create a two tier system for QTS of passing a preparation phase and a practice phase. Your final comments, in my view, reflects the need for local democratic control of schooling and a return to high quality advisory services designed to help develop the profession we used to have in place.

      If academies can be seen as a new style of VC/VA school working within a local democratic framework we have a model for the future. Sadly, not one the government will accept unless the Tory shires really do revolt over their loss of oversight of primary schools.

      • There was a time when trainee teachers spent time in different types of school – I did teaching practice in three different settings: secondary urban, upper primary urban, lower primary rural. My concern is that school-based training which this Government prefers lacks the intellectual underpinning which is considered essential in Finland (up to Masters level). Teacher education is being dumbed-down so it’s little more than tips for teachers although the proposed White Paper does say trainee teachers should have experience of special needs children. But unless that’s properly overseen then this could be little more than observing the SENCO.

  2. I stumbled upon this post having googled ‘is there a teaching crisis in primary education…’ because I’m convinced there isn’t, not where I live anyway. I think the Teacher Recruitment Crisis headline must refer solely to secondary education. As a man, with many valuable skills and real-world experience in a ‘new to the 2014 curriculum’ subject area I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble. However I just can’t seem to secure a role… I must be doing something wrong I guess. Anyway, having since done supply in various settings – something I thought I could use as a big selling point – for my latest application I didn’t even get shortlisted.

    The reason for my comment is that I’m planning to return to my old profession where I at least felt wanted/needed/valued… and for money, of course. But my experiences do make me question the whole teacher recruitment crisis issue. Obviously schools have to recruit the right person for the job… I guess that’s not me afterall.

    • Thanks for the insights and I am sorry you are having difficulties. In primary it does depend upon where in the country you are located. If you haven’t done so, you might want to contact one or more agencies to see whether they have any jobs locally.

      John Howson

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