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Teacher shortage getting worse, say MPs

The government is failing to take adequate measures to tackle “significant teacher shortages” in England, a committee of MPs has said.

The Education Select Committee has called for a long-term plan, as schools struggle to recruit enough teachers and pupil numbers continue to rise.

MPs want more active efforts to reduce the numbers quitting teaching.

The Department for Education said there were currently record levels of teachers.

A spokesman said: “We recognise there are challenges.”

But, he said, the department had spent £1.3bn on a recruitment campaign.

The report from the cross-party committee, though, says recruitment targets for teaching had been consistently missed and the teacher shortage is getting worse.

It warns that this causes particular problems in some shortage subjects in secondary school, including physics, maths and computing.

Initiative overload

But the MPs say that there is no clear long-term plan to address this – and they suggest there should be greater efforts to keep teachers from leaving the profession and moving to other jobs.

Figures last year showed that almost a third of new teachers who had started jobs in English state schools in 2010 had left within five years.

The MPs want measures to tackle problems that make people leave teaching – such as an “unmanageable workload” or a lack of professional development.

“The government needs to do more to encourage teachers to stay in the profession by raising the status of teachers, improving the opportunities for good quality training, and by doing all it can to help reduce teacher workload,” said Neil Carmichael, who chairs the committee.

He said the government could consider “holding fire” on policy changes that added to the pressure on schools.

And he suggested schools needed time to support staff development without constantly being “distracted by the demands of the latest Whitehall directive”.

Malcolm Trobe, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union said: “The crisis in teacher supply has a direct impact on the education that schools are able to provide to their pupils.

“It means that important subjects like maths and science have to be covered by teachers who are not specialists in these subjects and that schools have to increasingly rely on supply staff.”

Ministers have argued that they have kept teaching as an attractive profession in a competitive jobs market.

There have been a series of high-profile advertising campaigns for teaching and there are financial incentives focused on attracting recruits into shortage subjects.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “There are more teachers in England’s schools than ever before, with secondary postgraduate recruitment at its highest since 2011.

“We are investing more than £1.3bn in recruitment over this Parliament and have recruited more trainees in key subjects like physics and maths than last year.”

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