The supply of teachers

3 Dec

In its official response to the Commons Education Committee Inquiry Supply of Teachers, Voice addressed the following areas: 

  • Is teacher recruitment in crisis?
  • Recruitment at Senior Leadership level.
  • Regional influences on recruitment.
  • Recruitment by subject.
  • Causes of the current situation.
  • Possible government action to address the issues.
  • Conclusions. 
Teacher Recruitment “crisis”

“As signalled in our submissions to the STRB from as far back as 2013, Voice remains deeply concerned about teacher supply and suggests that “crisis” is not too strong a term to apply to the current and emerging situation. 

“As recently as 19 November 2015, the DfE published figures on those who had started teacher training courses at the beginning of this academic year. The news was not good.

“For a third year running, targets for the number of new trainee teachers in England had been missed, prompting the media to, perhaps predictably, headline this as “missed targets signal teacher recruitment crisis” (BBC News).”

“Alongside the recruitment of new trainees, Voice believes that retention of the current teacher workforce is a vital element in maintaining a sufficient supply of teachers into schools. The 2014 School Workforce Survey  demonstrates that the largest group of teachers by age is those in their 30s and 40s, in other words those who could reasonably be expected to remain in the system for 20 to 30 years. These teachers’ decisions as to whether to remain in teaching for the whole of their career will significantly affect teacher supply in the future.

“The number of teachers retiring each year can be replaced only if recruitment continues to meet demand and losses amongst younger teachers remain at a low level. If younger teachers leave the profession because they regard teaching as just one stage in a portfolio career (as indeed encouraged by the Teach First Programme) then the difficulty in maintaining the numbers will be greater.”

Senior Leadership Level 

“Recently there has been much discussion around the difficulty in recruiting school leaders and potential school leaders. Although overall the vacancy rate remains relatively low, there is growing evidence that recruitment of school leaders is becoming more difficult.

Regional variations 

“Geography can also play a role in school leader and teacher recruitment. Regions such as London where house prices are higher than average may deter applicants from moving into the area.

“More recently there has also been concern about other geographical areas such as the more deprived and perhaps ‘hidden’ coastal areas of England. This has indeed now been recognised by the Teach First Programme, which has been extended to place high flying graduates into exactly these sorts of areas.

“Most trainees tend to look for a job either in their home area or around the area in which they trained. This is also problematic as distribution of training places does not always reflect local need. This is an area which is difficult to judge as geographical allocation numbers are not published by the Department.”

Recruitment by subject 

“It is also apparent that whilst there may be an overall crisis in numbers, this is not the case in all subject areas.” 

 Causes of the current situation 

“The current recruitment crisis is not new. Voice has highlighted concerns about this since 2013 when the economy began to recover after the recession and opportunities for graduates began to open up again.

“The attraction of teaching as a relatively safe option during the recession and corresponding increase in application and uptake has now receded and teaching is competing for graduates in an open market.”

Solutions to the current situation 

“Individuals are unlikely to invest in their own training as a teacher if there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it. There have been ongoing changes to the level of bursary available to trainees and the plethora of routes into teaching can make it difficult to attract new entrants, especially at a time when the economy is growing and with it the number of other opportunities available.

We believe more could be done to attract qualified teachers from the pool currently not active or teachers from abroad whose qualifications are recognised in the UK. 

“Whilst we acknowledge that pay is not the only element in the motivation of teachers, it does have a role and, with the introduction of Performance Related Pay from September 2013 and the removal of some of the guarantees for pay progression we feel that it is an element which is assuming greater prominence. Competitive levels of pay are essential in attracting the right calibre of trainee. The right pay levels are essential not only to attract people into the profession but also to keep those who are already there motivated to remain.” 


“The key issue in teacher supply in this Parliament will be the increase in pupil numbersFrom a low point this year the secondary school population is predicated to rise through the whole of this Parliament and probably most of the next. The STRB estimates that the secondary school population will be 17% higher in 2023 than in 2014 (25th Report). 

Any reduction in training numbers will put pressure on teacher supply. Schools with the ability to pay more or offer an attractive environment will suffer less than those schools where teaching is more demanding or the school located in areas that are deemed unattractive or conversely too expensive.

Routes into teaching have undergone a fundamental change. It is not yet clear how these changes may affect the attractiveness of teaching as a career. We believe that salary, work/life balance and pension may assume greater significance as teaching competes with other professions in an open market.”

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