The challenges of school recruitment in 2016

Feb. 3, 2016
Professor John Howson

Professor John Howson

Director, TeachVac and Honorary Norham Fellow, University of Oxford

If there were more teachers working in state funded schools in November 2014 (the latest DfE data available) than ever before, as Ministers keep reminding everyone, why is there the feeling of a teacher recruitment crisis in early 2016?

The challenges

Part of the answer is that pupil numbers are on the up, and will keep on rising; with school rolls across the country needing to accommodate 800,000 or so new pupils by the early 2020s.

Another part of the answer is that although the total number of teachers may be sufficient - and indeed in 2014 pupil-teacher ratios across the secondary sector were still better than a decade previously - there are not enough teachers willing to work in certain parts of the country, and nor are there enough adequately trained in some subjects or for the different phases in the primary age-group.

"There are not enough teachers willing to work in certain parts of the country, and nor are there enough adequately trained in some subjects or for the different phases in the primary age-group. "

Making up the numbers

Each year, the DfE identifies how many training places it will fund. However, the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) used by the DfE is a national model and doesn’t take account of regional differences in demand. The Model has also undergone some changes over recent years in relation to whether non-EBacc subjects are modelled separately or collectively.

Leaving aside the changes to the Model, the outcome of recruitment for 2015 courses, which will provide the bulk of the new entrants into secondary schools in 2016 and more than half of those seeking primary school posts for the first time (with the remainder of new primary entrants coming from undergraduate courses), was revealed at the end of November in the ITT Census.

According to that data, after Teach First numbers have been excluded, the TSM number was not met in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, computing, classics, design and technology, drama languages, geography, art and design, music, religious education, business studies and the catch-all group of ‘other’. The target was exceeded only in English, history, physical education and primary.

Going on this data, it is no wonder that there is a feeling of a recruitment crisis in our schools.

Regionally, the data from January 2016 suggests that the trend seen in 2015 – that of schools in London and the Home Counties facing the greatest recruitment pressure - is continuing, although there are also local hotspots elsewhere.

Fortunately, in many areas there are still plenty of teachers with sufficient experience to fill middle leadership posts; but as the effects of under-recruitment work through the system there will become issues with recruiting middle leaders in some subjects.

"If we are going to end the chronic shortage of teachers we need to address deeper issues."

Addressing the shortage

At the end of January 2016, TeachVac (the free recruitment site that monitors vacancies) has already recorded enough vacancies in English to account for more than a third of trainees likely to be looking for jobs this summer. This is indicative of the pressures of supply and demand across subject and throughout the sector.

Schools that input vacancies for classroom teachers in secondary subjects into TeachVac receive an update of the latest position on supply with every vacancy they enter. This can help inform schools of the likely degree of challenge facing them. TeachVac also issue monthly newsletters with updates and reviews throughout the year. The aim is to better enable the pressure on schools who need to fill their pipeline of middle and senior leaders in their schools.

Tools like TeachVac help schools to manage the recruitment pressures throughout the school year. But if we are going to end the chronic shortage of teachers we need to address deeper issues by improving bursaries, increasing advertising and tackling the workload issue, as well as cutting the cost of training.

Ultimately, ensuring there are enough teachers to fill vacancies is a matter for government – and one to which we must hold them to account.


This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019, the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.


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