Government failing to address teacher shortages, MPs say

The government’s record on teacher training has been criticised in a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report.

The report said that the School Direct programme, created to provide locally-targeted teacher training, does not apply to 57% of schools, many of which are in rural and deprived areas.

The Department for Education has also failed to commission an independent review into teacher recruitment despite missing targets in 14 out of 17 subjects last year.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said: “Training teachers is too important to get wrong but the government has taken too little responsibility for getting it right.

“The Department for Education has repeatedly missed its target to fill training places. At the same time, it has remained woefully aloof from concerns raised by frontline staff and freely available evidence.”

The PAC said that the department and the National College for Training and Leadership should develop a clear teacher recruitment plan for the next three years.

Education minister Nick Gibb MP defended the government’s record on teacher training.

“More people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it, there are 13,100 more teachers today than when we came to office and the ratio of teachers to pupils is stable with more teachers also choosing to come back to the classroom,” he said.

However, Hillier said that “national statistics” did not account for variations across the country.

There are 294 trainees for 100,000 pupils in the east of England, compared to 547 in the north west.

The consequences of this range from education problems for pupils to schools being forced to take money out of overstretched budgets to spend on recruitment agencies.

Hillier said: “It is a basic point but one worth spelling out for the government’s benefit: variations in the supply and quality of teachers at local level can significantly affect pupils' educational attainment and life prospects.”

She said that the government and the National College must do more to talk to head teachers about recruitment challenges. She also said PAC was “alarmed” at the growing numbers of pupils being taught by teachers without a higher-education qualification in the relevant subject.

The proportion of English Baccalaureate subjects being taught by teachers who were not specialists rose from 14% in 2010 to 18% in 2014.

The committee said the department should report back on the extent and impact of teachers teaching subjects they were not qualified in by August. It also highlighted problems with confusing information about the different routes into teacher training and a failure by the department to evaluate whether it got value for money from the £620m spent on teacher training bursaries in 2010-15.

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