SCHOOLS across England are at risk of teacher shortages in key subject areas, according to government figures released last Thursday.
The figures show that there was a fall in the targeted number of places filled from 95% to 93% between 2013/14 and 2014/15.
However, just 91% of targeted secondary school places were met, representing a fifth consecutive fall in the number of people training to be secondary teachers.
When it comes to training teachers, the figures suggest that higher education institutions (HEIs) are leading the way, despite government cuts.
HEIs recruited 20,774 teachers, filling 90% of their allocated places. School Direct filled just six out of 10 (61%) of its allocated places and recruited 9,232 teachers.
While HEIs in England have lost teacher training places, the School Direct programme has expanded from 350 places in 2012/2013 to over 9,000 in 2014/2015.
The University and College Union (UCU) said that significant under-recruitment, particularly in secondary schools, could lead to more serious long-term shortages of qualified teachers.
It urged the government to look again at the success of university teacher training departments.
Only five subjects – art, history, English, physical education and chemistry – recruited enough new teachers.
The other sciences under-recruited with just 67% of the targeted places for physics teachers being filled and 85% for biology.
Mathematics fared a little better with 88% of the targeted places filled. Just 44% of the targeted number of design and technology teachers were recruited.
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘These new figures are deeply concerning for schools and parents.
‘We have seen another fall in the number of people training to be secondary school teachers and there are shortages in most subject areas.
‘The government needs to learn lessons from universities where recruitment figures are best.
‘University teacher training departments are key to producing a high-quality and flexible workforce at a time when there is a growing demand for more teachers.’
Meanwhile, hundreds of struggling academies in England are being kept under ‘close watch’ by the Department for Education, schools minister David Laws has said.
Laws said on Thursday that local supervision of academies needs to be improved, such as by allowing Ofsted to inspect academy chains.
In a speech to the Centre Forum think tank, he said: ‘We simply cannot let either failing chains or local authorities off the hook – or children’s education will suffer.’
The schools minister claimed: ‘We are allowing too many underperforming schools, weak local authorities and mediocre academy chains to deliver poor education for too long.’
Commenting on Laws’ speech to the Centre Forum, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘David Laws’ proposals to give local authorities (LAs) powers of intervention for school improvement in standalone academies are welcome but need to go further.
‘It is too little too late to suggest that LAs should step in once an academy is in difficulty.
‘Instead, we need to return to the system in which LAs have the power of support and oversight of all state-funded schools in their locality.
‘LAs also need to have the funding restored to them that this government has devolved to schools, in areas such as behaviour support, school improvement and many other vital services.
‘It is through the provision of high quality support and school-to-school collaboration that problems will be averted in the first place.
‘David Laws and (Education Secretary) Nicky Morgan should accept that the government’s experiment with autonomous schools has seen the very opposite of system-wide improvement.
‘This can only come about when schools work together locally within supportive LAs, to ensure all local schools provide a high standard of education.
‘The recognition of the role of local authorities in school improvement is a step in the right direction. However, at a time of huge budget cuts to LA budgets, this would of course have to be well resourced.
‘However, giving piecemeal powers back to LAs is not sufficient. LAs’ rightful role as the middle tier in education must be acknowledged and full powers restored to them.
‘David Laws’ acceptance that the endless criticism of the profession has to stop and that teachers should be qualified is welcome. What he will do to change the situation is another matter. Ill-thought and rushed changes to education and a workload for many of 60 hours a week, is driving thousands of teachers out of the profession.
‘The NUT’s Stand up for Education campaign has been pivotal in getting politicians to recognise and take seriously the concerns of teachers.
‘Through our Manifesto for Education and the rest of our eight steps to reduce workload, we will continue to press government to bring about real change.’
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) also commented on Laws’ vision to ‘turn around 2,000 “forgotten” schools’.
ATL General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ‘ATL welcomes the fact that David Laws acknowledges the fundamental flaws in the oversight of academies and free schools.
‘It has always been obvious that Regional Schools Commissioners cannot hold all academies and free schools in their areas to account.
‘ATL is calling for a local accountability system where schools are required to work together to share good practice, and local partners provide support, with a new role for Ofsted to evaluate these local arrangements.
‘ATL also welcomes David Laws’ recognition that the previous Secretary of State, Michael Gove, adopted a confrontational stance towards the teaching profession.
‘We are happy to work with the Minister to improve relations, but this will need to go far beyond “being nicer” to teachers.
‘We need to tackle excessive workload, and pay teachers a decent salary for the fundamental and vital work that they do.’