Alarming teacher shortage

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Teachers standing up for education on the TUC march  – an Ofsted report has highlighted an alarming teacher shortage, sixth form funding crisis and youth driven into poor quality apprenticeships
Teachers standing up for education on the TUC march – an Ofsted report has highlighted an alarming teacher shortage, sixth form funding crisis and youth driven into poor quality apprenticeships

‘AN ALARMING teacher recruitment crisis is gripping England’s schools,’ teachers union NUT warned yesterday, adding that ‘no amount of “golden handshakes” will resolve the problem’.

The NUT was responding to the annual Ofsted report into schools which describes the intense crisis facing both secondary schools and colleges under the Tory government. So desperate is the teacher staff shortage that the government has announced a ‘golden hello’ scheme to attempt to entice people to go into teaching by offering them cash incentives.

The NUT made it clear that it is ‘low pay and unmanageable workloads as well as the punitive nature of Ofsted inspections’ and forcing council-run schools to become privately run academies that are driving teachers out of the profession. The Ofsted report concludes: ‘Secondary schools have not improved as quickly as primary schools and, increasingly, general Further Education colleges are struggling.

‘This is true to some extent in all parts of the country, but it is in the North and Midlands that these weaknesses are having the greatest impact. As a result, the destinations for young people leaving schools and colleges across these regions are not as positive. A higher proportion of young people go on to take up apprenticeships in the North and Midlands, but our inspections show that the quality of what is on offer is often poor.’

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘Michael Wilshaw is right to be alarmed at the teacher recruitment crisis gripping England’s schools. Golden handshakes alone will not address the fact that the teaching profession has become unattractive to many graduates.

‘Alongside pay and unmanageable workloads, the punitive nature of Ofsted inspections are also contributing factors and need to be addressed. The Chief Inspector refers to the success of the London Challenge which has given London a world class schools’ system.

‘However, it has to be recognised that local authorities no longer have the powers to support schools as they did in the 1990s when the London Challenge was in operation. Councils have seen an increasing erosion of their role in education, particularly in the secondary sector, with the promotion of academy status for schools.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘If it is true the government is going to force all schools to become academies, then more will operate in isolation, leading to greater inequality in school quality and make it harder to raise standards across all areas of the country. The pressure of accountability measures, league tables and Ofsted itself means that successful schools are pulling up the drawbridges.’

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, representing college lecturers, said: ‘As the report rightly recognises, the further education sector has faced massive budget cuts in recent years. It is little surprise that this rapidly changing funding environment is acting as a barrier to quality. If the government wants to support improvement in the further education and skills sector, it should put a sustainable funding system in place which ensures that cost is not a barrier to people accessing the skills learning they need.

‘It should also recognise that apprenticeships are not the only solution to the country’s skills needs and enable colleges to focus their provision to meet local priorities. The report supports UCU’s previously expressed concerns about the poor quality of many apprenticeships.’