Tory Cuts Produce ‘Chronic Shortage Of Teachers’

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NASUWT and NUT banners leading a march in London in defence of education
NASUWT and NUT banners leading a march in London in defence of education

AS schools prepare to break up for the Christmas holidays, new analysis by the Labour Party reveals the impact of the chronic shortage of teachers up and down the country.

New official figures published this week reveal that the amount spent on supply teachers by schools continues to soar. The average spend by academies and Free Schools alone has risen by 42 per cent in one year.

This new analysis shows that the overall spend by schools on supply teachers has rocketed by nearly £300 million over two years – a rise of more than one quarter – and now stands at £1.3 billion. This significant increase in the cost of supply teachers is a result of schools trying to plug the gaps caused by the Tories’ failure to recruit enough trainee teachers – this year the government missed their target for teacher recruitment for the fourth year in a row.

At the same time, record numbers of teachers are quitting the profession – 50,000 this year, more than actually entered the profession. Shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell MP, said: ‘With chronic shortages of teachers in our schools, this government is risking the education of the next generation.

‘Ministers have mishandled teacher training, putting applicants off and constantly talk down the profession, causing thousands of teachers to quit. As a result, half of all schools had unfilled positions at the start of this year and are being forced to turn to unqualified staff, temporary supply teachers, non-specialists, and larger class sizes to try to plug the gaps.

‘Nothing is more important for raising standards and improving social mobility than ensuring there are excellent teachers in every school. The government urgently needs to get a grip on this problem, which is affecting the education of our children, and start to take it seriously.’

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘The Labour Party is right to highlight this problem. Almost one in five teacher training places remain unfilled and this is the third consecutive year that the secondary recruitment target has been missed.

‘Increasing numbers are also leaving the profession. Last year saw the highest number of resignations for a decade. Teaching supply agencies are cashing in on the teacher shortage by charging schools introductory fee payments of up to 20% of a teacher’s salary.

‘A school may have to do this for 15 to 20 teachers a year costing schools £60 to £100k. This is all money which should be spent on increasing the supply of qualified teachers. Local authority Human Resources should be encouraged to collaborate together to replicate their service without the profit taking.

‘There will be almost one million more students in 2024 than currently, so recruiting more teachers and retaining those we already have is essential. Government needs to urgently address workload, teacher pay and the confusion surrounding routes into initial teacher training. If not, more and more teachers will simply leave, and graduates will look elsewhere for a career.’

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘There cannot now be any doubt that schools are in the midst of a serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis, driven by the adverse impact of the government’s policies on the school workforce.

‘Since 2010, there have been relentless attacks on teachers. Year-on-year cuts to teachers’ pay, workload spiralling out of control, deprofessionalisation, demoralisation and denigration. The result is that resignations are up and applications to teach are down, leaving schools to increasingly rely on supply teachers to fill the gap.

‘As the Labour Party’s figures show, supply teachers are a vital resource for schools and they are the backbone of the school system. Despite this, many face exploitation by supply agencies in their drive to maximise their profits. The NASUWT is continuing to press for better regulation of supply agencies to end unscrupulous practices such as forcing supply teachers to sign exploitative contracts with offshore umbrella companies.

‘Many of these companies deny supply teachers their basic legal rights and entitlements and seek to avoid paying tax and National Insurance. As well as addressing the root causes of the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, the government must also make good on promises to end the exploitation of supply teachers by ensuring good employment practices, fair remuneration and decent working conditions.’

• Last Friday, 11th December, parents of pupils at the Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate were informed the school has been closed with immediate effect and their children no longer have a school to attend. The school is one of a very small number that caters for deaf children and young adults, many of whom have complex additional needs such as autism or learning difficulties. 

The pupils’ parents, with the support of the British Deaf Association (BDA), are campaigning to overturn this decision and keep the school open after the Trust that runs the school went into administration. Parents were informed of the closure last Friday afternoon – after their children had returned home. From last Monday 14th December, the children do not have a school to attend.

The Royal School for Deaf Children met social care and health as well as educational needs of the children and many parents will be unable to work as they will now have to care for their highly vulnerable children. Six children have no home to go to over Christmas.

Dr Terry Riley, OBE, Chair of the British Deaf Association and ex-governor of the school, said: ‘The BDA is saddened to hear the news of the closure of The Royal School for Deaf Children, established in 1792, which was the oldest Deaf school still operating in the UK.

‘As an ex school governor, I can ascertain to the wonderful work the school and the staff gives to the children, many of whom have severe disabilities. On many occasions, it has brought tears to my eyes to see the joy on these children’s faces when they achieve something that for many of us is easy – such as speaking in the Christmas panto or swimming a short few metres in the pool.

‘These are children who have been marginalised by society for being “unteachable”. Yet, through the perseverance and dedication of the staff, parents and family, they had hopes. It is an extremely worrying situation for pupils and their families to see these hopes shattered.

‘The BDA, has been and will continue to work with the John Townsend Trust which operates the school and its Directors, to discuss how we can work together with them to ensure that this vital heritage is not lost forever. Along with other organisations, such as Sign Video, and the NDCS, we have requested an urgent meeting with the Trust administrator, and the Secretary of State for Education, as time is of the essence.

‘Importantly, we are still, even at this late stage, continuing to see if the decision can be reversed. We cannot let such an historic part of our heritage and culture be allowed to disappear from our lives.’