Teacher Supply: my current thoughts

This week the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession and SATTAG (The Supply & Training of Teachers Advisory Group) both hold their autumn meetings. The 2016 ITT census appears next week, so teacher supply is likely to be on the agenda one way or another for much of the rest of the month. At some point in the future the Migration Advisory Committee will presumably publish its findings on visas and shortage subjects.

This time last year I told the Select Committee there were three possible sources for a crisis in teacher supply; geographical, numerical and quality. Now, while the numbers crisis may have eased in some subjects, and could be seen to ease further when the 2016 census appears, the other two reasons for a crisis may not have altered very much. To these can be added a fourth, whether more teachers are leaving state-funded schools after a couple of years in the profession? The evidence, although a lagging indicator, certainly seems to point in that direction.

So, will the situation in teacher supply worsen or continue to improve over the next few years? The jury is out at this point in time as the different factors are finely balanced. On the one hand, the global economy could slow down reducing job opportunities for graduates. There is also the issue of tightening school budgets, coupled with actual losers in any new funding formula that together might reduce demand for teachers. Should teachers finally be offered a pay rise of more than one per cent in 2017, then that might further reduce demand.

On the other side of the equation, pupil numbers are rising and the increase will start to be felt by secondary schools, especially in and around London for the next few years. The Capital and the surrounding Home Counties are already the areas most affected by teacher turnover and possible supply issues.

The effects of School Direct and the expansion of Teach First have been patchy to date. Schools in those programmes may benefit from their involvement and can also use the ‘free pool’ of higher education trained teachers where they cannot recruit trainees through these routes, whereas schools that don’t benefit from these programmes must, perforce, use the ‘free pool’ to recruit. I am not sure the effects of this approach have been fully researched yet, but the government must ensure all can have teachers if it is to do its job properly.

On balance, it seems the teacher supply situation could go in either direction: worsen for the seventh year in some subjects in 2017 and affect recruitment until 2018, or ease further in some subjects, but worsen in others. The world economic situation is likely to be the key determinant of what happens and the world may be overdue for a slowdown.

A final point to consider is that the number of eighteen year olds going to university isn’t going to increase over the next few years as the cohort size is affected by the demographic decline now coming to an end in our secondary schools among the younger age groups. Add in a loss of teachers from the EU, post the UK’s departure, and, whatever the world situation, we may create our own national teacher supply problems. To that extent it will be interesting to read the Select Committee Report when it appears as well as the deliberation of the Migration Advisory Committee.



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