A recent survey showed that today around three out of four local education authorities in England are experiencing a teacher shortage, with 18% of those polled saying the problem had reached crisis levels.
Department for Education figures show that in the 12 months to November 2014 almost 1 in 10 teachers left the state sector; nearly 50,000 qualified teachers were lost – the highest rate for 10 years.
To curb the growing problem, schools are resorting to the recruitment of hundreds of foreign teachers to plug major holes in certain subjects with maths and physics topping the list.
The Department for Education has resorted to the launch of a programme to attract teachers from abroad with advertising being extended to EU countries as well as China and Singapore (both incidentally being at the top of international league tables for maths and science).
So what has gone wrong? The problem is partly because of the recovering economy, which has meant specialists can earn more outside of teaching. But Chris Waterman, Chair of the Supply and Teacher Training Advisory Group, states that a host of factors are to blame. He says, “It’s a perfect storm of negatives that have reduced schools to scouring the globe for teachers in order to have sufficient bodies to put in front of their classes at the start of term.” He also blamed the economy saying that as it gets stronger, those who looked to teaching as a safe job in an uncertain time were now not tempted.
Julian Stanley, Chief executive Teacher Support Network Group (TSNG) also added to the explanation that over stretched workloads, a rapid pace of change and unreasonable demands put on teachers today have led a significant number to feel overworked but undervalued in their place of work.
In fact, a recent health survey carried out by TSNG found that 91% of teachers have suffered stress, 74% anxiety and 47% depression in the past two years. Mr Stanley feels that it is these issues that seriously need to be addressed to encourage more people into the profession whilst helping those already employed to remain passionate about their jobs and dedicated to student’s learning.
Added to these factors, our school population is growing fast – an additional 500,000 pupils are due to enter the school system over the next five years.
So what should the Government be doing to remedy the situation? Several councils have said that society needed to value teachers more highly to make the profession an attractive and positive option again.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said the Government had taken ‘decisive steps’ to doing this. Introducing performance-related pay, giving good teachers an immediate £2,000 increase and giving postgraduate trainees a salary of £150 a week are all positive steps while those training to teach shortage subjects receive a cash incentive of £4000.
The spokesman acknowledged there is more to do but said, “At a time of a strong economy and a buoyant graduate recruitment market, the incentives we have introduced are bucking an eight year long decline in teacher recruitment.”