Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) which warns of a substantial risk that teacher recruitment targets will not be met this year across a large range of secondary subjects.
“This report confirms our fears that schools are facing a fresh recruitment crisis. In truth, teacher shortages have been a problem for many years not only because of the difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of new teachers but also in retaining existing staff.
“The situation in shortage subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages is absolutely desperate and it is quite alarming if this situation now spreads to other subjects too. The problem can be particularly acute in schools which face the most challenging circumstances because recruitment is already likely to be difficult.
“There are a number of factors causing these shortages. One of these is pretty obviously government austerity policies over the last decade or so which have cut the level of teacher pay in real terms, making it less competitive with other professions.
“The pay freeze imposed by the government in the current academic year has made that worse. It also asks a lot of schools while squeezing their budgets, which inevitably adds to workload pressures. There have been a number of initiatives to address workload but it is a hard nut to crack when there are a lot of demands on schools and not enough resources.
“The government has tried to tackle teacher shortages through various measures but it is always a case of one step forwards and two steps backwards. The latest is its commitment to raise starting salaries to £30,000, which it then undermines by proposing a much lower below-inflation award for experienced teachers and leaders which will obviously damage retention.
“It really needs a strategy to raise the level of teacher pay in general, restore its competitiveness in the labour market, and fund schools properly.”