• Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Teachers shortage acute for secondary classes: Panel

A House of Commons Education Committee found that teacher shortage was acute for subjects such as physics, maths, design and technology, and modern foreign languages

Picture for representation (iStock)

By: Shajil Kumar

A House of Commons Education Committee report on teacher recruitment, training, and retention has found that while there has been an increase in the overall number of teachers, it has not kept pace with pupil numbers.

The committee noted that while recruitment and retention remain a challenge at all levels, secondary and further education is the worst impacted. It found that teacher shortage was acute for subjects such as physics, maths, religious education, design and technology, and modern foreign languages.

While the rate of teachers leaving due to retirement continues to fall, those leaving due to a change in career or joining other UK education sectors are increasing. Currently, this group makes up 91 per cent of leavers, the committee found.

The committee noted that teacher training bursaries were attracting people into the profession and called for the expansion of bursary eligibility and raising of lower bursaries to improve teacher recruitment. It found that recruitment and retention were poor among those teaching subjects with low or no bursaries.

Regarding support staff, the committee found that schools are struggling to recruit and retain support staff due to low wages. On the other hand, the recent pay rises for support staff have increased pressures on school budgets. It called for factoring in the wage growth of support staff into school budgets.

The committee observed that support staff are crucial in helping reduce teacher workload and provide essential support to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

As for teachers’ training, the committee found that there is little awareness about alternative routes to enter the profession such as School Direct salaried and unsalaried, School-Centred initial teacher training, Teach First, and Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeships. The government should provide widespread publicity for these courses.

Other than new graduates, all possible avenues for the recruitment of teachers should be explored. The committee wanted the routes and pathways into teaching for international teachers to remain open, attractive, and easy to navigate.

The committee observed that Now Teach was attracting people aged over 40 years to pivot to the teaching profession and wanted the education department to reverse its recent decision to not renew funding for the Now Teach ‘career changer programme’.

It also called upon more investment and centralised organisation to upskill existing non-specialist teachers.

The worsening pupil behaviour since the Covid-19 pandemic was dissuading prospective teachers, the committee said. It called for starting more Behaviour Hubs to help schools and teachers address pupil behaviour.

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