‘Critical state’ of teacher supply poses risk to quality of education – report

The “critical state” of teacher supply in England poses a “substantial risk” to the quality of education that children receive, a report has suggested.

Ambitious and “radical” actions are urgently needed to address teacher recruitment and retention challenges, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

The NFER report calls for teachers to be awarded a “pay premium” to compensate for the lack of remote and hybrid working opportunities in their jobs, compared with other graduates.

It comes after figures in December showed just 50% of the Government’s initial teacher training target (ITT) for secondary school subjects was reached in 2023/24, down from 57% in 2022/23.

“This shows that post-pandemic teacher recruitment in England continues to be a significant policy challenge and is likely only to worsen without concerted action,” the NFER said.

The NFER predicts that 10 out of 17 secondary subjects – including mathematics –  are “at risk of under-recruiting” teachers in 2024/25, based on ITT applications made up to February 2024.

The report adds that “little progress” has been made on reducing high teacher workload, and teachers say that pupil behaviour is “driving higher workload”.

The study calls on the Government to set up a view focusing on how to reduce teachers’ workload related to behaviour management and pastoral care.

Last year, teachers in England were offered a 6.5% pay rise for 2023/24.

But the NFER study suggests that it is “unlikely” that last year’s pay award has significantly contributed to narrowing the gap in earnings growth compared with the wider labour market.

The report calls for the 2024/25 pay award for teachers to exceed 3.1% and be fully-funded to “improve the competitiveness of teacher pay”.

It adds that political parties should introduce a Frontline Workers Pay Premium to prevent an “inherent inflexibility” around remote working from undermining the attractiveness of their jobs.

The report says the pay premium for teachers should be 1.8%, which would need to be awarded on top of the pay rise needed to match teachers’ earnings growth with the wider economy.

He said: “We estimate, given the value that graduates tend to put on it, that it would be contributing to some change in retention.”

Mr Worth told the media that schools struggling with shortages could be forced to use more non-specialist teachers which may “affect the progress” that pupils can make with their learning.

He added that there was evidence of non-specialists teaching mathematics which he warned “may increase if the shortfalls continue”.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced that all pupils in England will study some form of mathematics until the age of 18 under reforms to introduce “the Advanced British Standard”.

Mr Worth said: “Teacher supply is in a critical state that risks the quality of education that children and young people receive.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “The lack of specialist services and external support has left teachers and school leaders being expected to play the role of counsellor, behaviour therapist and security guard, in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

“Set against a backdrop of declining and increasingly uncompetitive rates of pay, it is little wonder that experienced teachers and headteachers are leaving prematurely and fewer graduates are choosing to come into teaching.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Society cannot function without teachers and we currently have a critical shortage in our schools and colleges. It is high time the government gave this crisis the attention it warrants.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We now have more teachers than ever before, with over 468,000 teachers in the workforce, a 27,000 increase on 2010. This comes on top of the largest teacher pay rise in over thirty years, and a minimum starting salary of £30,000.

“To continue to attract the brightest and the best teachers, we offer bursaries and scholarships up to £30,000 for chemistry, computing, mathematics and physics teachers.

“We are taking steps to support their wellbeing and ease workload pressures which includes plans to support schools to reduce working hours for teachers and leaders by five hours per week.”

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