According to a Local Government Information Unit bulletin issued on Saturday, and citing a report in the Birmingham Post that was apparently based upon Office of National Statistics data, the number of people aged 0-14 in England will increase by 951,200 between 2014 and 2039. This will take the number from 9.7 million to 10.6 million. If anywhere near accurate, these figures will mean that there is likely to be no let-up in the demand for more teachers for most of the next quarter century.
The ONS will release some more data at the end of June but, whatever happens, the demand for more teachers is not likely to be spread evenly across the country. At present, ONS projects the following increases for the different regions of England.
Percentage increase in population 2024 on 2014
|Region||0 to 15 years old|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||4.9|
This table is very much in line with the findings of our TeachVac www.teachvac.com vacancy tracking. Both in 2015 and so far in 2016, London has had the largest percentage of vacancies per school for classroom teachers of any region, followed by the South East and East of England regions. There have been far fewer vacancies registered in the regions of the north of England.
If the population of London and the Home Counties is going to continue to increase, then governments, whatever their political complexion, will need to solve the staffing crisis in these regions as well as finding sufficient space for the extra pupils. Finding locations for new schools will be a real challenge and it might in extremis require building on existing playgrounds, with new outdoor space being located on the roof. There are precedents for such schools in inner city locations, although they probably aren’t ideal. I recall visiting one such inner city high school in New York located in a former office building that had no windows on several of the upper floors where the classrooms were located.
But, the longer-term strategy for teaching such large numbers of pupils also needs to be addressed by government. The issue is not, will they be taught, because somehow they will be. But, will it be to a standard we require to maintain our position in an evolving world economy? Schools in London have made great strides in achievements this century, it would disappointing to see that progress stall and even worse to see it go into reverse with falling standards just because there were insufficient appropriately trained and qualified teachers.
Whether the solution is a longer working life, more late entrants into teaching as career changers living in London already won’t face a problem of where to live or the more advanced use of technology and private study for older students is all open for discussion.
What is not a matter for debate is the need to take action for the longer-term in a strategic fashion. The first step might be identify a regional commissioner group for London and the surrounding areas.