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31.01.18

‘Crisis brewing’ in secondary education, MPs warn

The number of secondary school teachers has been falling rapidly since 2010, it has been revealed.

A report by the public accounts committee has shown that since 2012 more teachers have been leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement.

Although the overall number of teachers has risen, the number of secondary school teachers fell by 4.9% between 2010 and 2016.

Many teachers have said that their heavy workload is the reason for exiting the profession.

This, combined with rising pupil numbers and pressures for schools to make significant savings has led to a “growing sense of crisis” for schools in England as they struggle to retain and develop their teachers.

The report claims that the Department for Education has given “insufficient priority” to teacher retention, arguing that the current situation could have been predicted and that action should have been taken to address it.

Spending on training new teachers has been 15 times greater than spending on supporting the existing workforce, and the report argues that the department’s “disparate collection of small-scale interventions” are “inadequate to address the underlying issues.”

The report also criticises the department’s lack of understanding of the various challenges faced by schools in different regions.

Chair of the public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, said that a “crisis is brewing,” and called government action: “sluggish and incoherent.”

“It should have been clear to senior civil servants that growing demand for school places, combined with a drive for schools to make efficiency savings, would only build pressure in the system,” she stated.

“Instead they seem to have watched on, scratching their heads, as more and more teachers quit the profession.”

She said that the committee expects a targeted, measurable plan to support struggling schools and address teacher retention “as a matter of urgency.”

In 2015-16, only around half of vacancies were filled with sufficiently qualified and experienced teachers, with varying teaching quality across the country, she continued.

“There is a real danger that, without meaningful intervention from government, these challenges will become an intractable threat to children’s education,” concluded Hillier.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are now a record number of teachers in our schools – 15,500 more than in 2010 – and last year, despite a competitive labour market with historic low unemployment rates and a growing economy, 32,000 trainee teachers were recruited.

“Retention rates have been broadly stable for the past 20 years, and the teaching profession continues to be an attractive career.”

They continued: “We want to continue to help schools recruit and retain the best teachers.

“We are consulting on proposals to improve and increase development opportunities for teachers across the country and working with teachers, unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload with specific support for teachers at the start of their careers.

“Alongside this we continue to offer financial incentives to attract the brightest and best into our classrooms.”

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