Why has UK government policy failed to provide enough teachers for years?

<klasa rozpiętości="atrybucja"><klasa="połączyć " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" cel="_pusty" dane-ylk=" — Yuri A/Shutterstock;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas"> – Yuri A/Shutterstock</a></span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYyNw–/ 1d0728daa55b45ac3ff6″ date- src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYyNw–/ 728daa55b45ac3ff6″/></div>
<p>England has been struggling with teacher shortages for years, particularly in some secondary subjects such as maths, science and technology.  Successive governments have tried, unsuccessfully, to address these shortfalls.</p>
<p>The “Return to Teaching” program, introduced in 2015, aimed to encourage former teachers to return to work and teach certain subjects in secondary schools.  The Department for Education spent almost £600,000 recruiting 27 teachers to achieve this target.</p>
<p>The National Teaching Service was then established to place 1,500 teachers in low-performing schools in areas that had difficulty recruiting teachers.  The pilot program, implemented in September 2016, was abandoned after only 24 teachers were recruited.  The 2018 Troops to Teachers scheme, which offered former staff £40,000 to train teachers, recruited just 22 people in its first year.</p>
<p>Other direct measures to attract people into teaching included the provision of new learning pathways such as school-led and on-the-job training.  The government is currently offering upfront payments to new teachers in the form of grants and scholarships, as well as student loan repayment.  £196m is expected to be spent on payments to prospective and new teachers in 2023-24.</p>
<p>However, these methods have had little or no success.  Unfortunately, one-time payments do not work.  In 2023-24, the government offered training grants and bursaries worth up to £29,000 to attract physics teachers, but only managed to recruit 17% of the target number of teachers.</p>
<p>A lot of time and effort was wasted.  My research with colleagues over 20 years suggests why.</p>
<h2>Why aren’t these initiatives working?</h2>
<p>Direct approaches to recruitment, such as offering payments or new opportunities to enter the profession, often fail.  This is made more difficult by the fact that teacher shortages – the gap between the number of teachers needed and the number available – are influenced by many different factors.</p>
<p>One of them is the number of schools.  When Tony Blair’s New Labor government came to power in 1997, huge investments were made in education.  Per-pupil spending increased rapidly from 1999 onwards, with the largest increases occurring in 2000–2001.</p>
<p>Schools wanted to use the money to hire more staff, so the apparent demand for teachers increased.  During this period, there was a sharp increase in the number of teacher recruitment advertisements, which is often wrongly interpreted as illustrating a teacher shortage.</p>
<p><strong>Teacher vacancies in England:</strong></p>
<figure class=
Line graphLine graph

After 2001, many small schools were forced to close or merge due to falling school enrollments – a consequence of falling birth rates and families moving away from certain areas for reasons such as rising housing costs or proximity to popular schools. This led to a trend that continued for several years to create fewer, larger schools, and as a result, the demand for teachers decreased and, consequently, the number of vacancies decreased. We are currently seeing similar patterns in primary schools in London.

Under the coalition government since 2010, there has been an increase in the number and types of schools. During this period, free schools, studio schools, university technical colleges and an increasing number of academies were established. This has led to more small schools that need full staff despite small class sizes, so the demand for teachers has increased again.

Number of schools in relation to teacher vacancies:

Line and bar chartLine and bar chart

Other policies also increased the demand for teachers. Starting in 2015, David Cameron’s Conservative government introduced a series of education reforms. These included increasing the age for education and training from 16 to 18, which means young people spend longer in education and therefore need more teachers to teach them.

The Conservative government also introduced the English Baccalaureate in 2010. The EBacc is a school performance measure that requires secondary school students to pass English, mathematics, science, one humanities subject (history or geography) and a language at GCSE. This means that more teachers are needed in these subjects. In 2023–2024, only 55% of the target number of EBacc teachers were recruited.

None of these policies have yet been implemented in sync with clear plans for more teachers. Teacher supply may also be influenced by other factors not directly related to education, such as graduate employment rates, inflation and the cost of living.

The current government introduced a teacher recruitment and retention strategy in 2019 that prioritized reducing workload, but there is no sign this is working.

However, there is no shortage of people willing to work as teachers. There are more applicants for the position of teacher than there are vacancies.

Number of candidates and places offered:

A bar graphA bar graph

The admission rate to teacher training courses over the years has been below 70%, suggesting that 30% of applicants were rejected. Many of those who have left some training institutions are better qualified than those admitted to others. There is also a serious problem of low acceptance of candidates from ethnic minorities.

Overall, teacher numbers keep up with student numbers but lag by several years because it takes time to recruit and train the number of teachers required by policy changes.

Changes in the number of teachers and students:

Line graphLine graph

Moreover, government reforms to teacher education appear to have actually reduced the number of people who can be trained. For example, between 2013–14 and 2015–16, the then Education Secretary Michael Gove increased the number of training places in schools through the School Direct school-based teacher training program. At the same time, the number of teaching places at universities was limited, at a time when the demand for teachers was particularly high.

In short, planning teacher supply is made difficult because of its close connection with politics.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



Beng Huat See receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council