North West London


as the figures showed a fall in the number of people coming into the profession. It means more pupils per teacher, with the pupil–teacher ratio now at its highest point in the survey’s figures, which go back to 2011. It is not simply a question of getting enough teachers into the classroom, head teachers said repeatedly. It is about getting staff with the right specialist skills. The quality of teaching staff is as much of an issue as the quantity of potential recruits. They want well-qualified maths and science teachers to teach those subjects, not simply someone to stand in front of a class. And there were many stories from head teachers of advertising for staff and getting no suitable candidates even applying. Schools relying on temporary staff to fill the gaps faced an additional financial cost, as well as the disruption of not having permanent people in post to teach a subject. There was an annual bill of over £800 million for using supply agencies, with fees and charges on top of salaries. Chris Keates, leader of the National Association of Schoolmasters union of Women Teachers (NASuWT) , said that unless there was “urgent action” to tackle the recruitment problems, “the current crisis affecting schools and children’s education is set to get even worse”. Ms Keates highlighted the importance of improving pay and reducing workloads as vital to making teaching more attractive. Education secretary Damian Hinds has publicly acknowledged the need to make teacher recruitment a priority. But it is a long-term problem, with new teachers needing time to be recruited and trained. It is also a challenge that is shaped by the rest of the job market, with teaching traditionally tending to become less popular as a career when employment levels are higher.

Workforces have been shrinking at schools as cash and staffing pressures clash

Mr Hinds has also inherited staffing levels weakened by years of failing to meet recruitment targets. For five years in a row, the government’s teacher training targets have been missed, with gaps in subjects such as religious education, computing and geography, as well as maths and physics. The House of Commons’ public accounts committee admonished the government for failing to respond to the problem in previous years and for having allowed the recruitment problems to keep deteriorating without intervening. “A crisis is brewing in English classrooms, but government action to address it has been sluggish and incoherent,” said committee chair Meg Hillier. The committee’s report warned that there had also been a lack of attention paid to how teacher shortages could be particularly bad in some parts of the country and to recognising the impact for schools that were unable to find any suitably qualified staff. In response the Department for Education said that 32,000 trainee teachers had been recruited and that financial incentives had been offered to attract the “brightest and best” into teaching. As well as problems with finding new teachers, the other side of the staffing shortage challenge is to prevent existing teachers from leaving the profession.


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