Heads to face Ofsted questions on how they cope with teacher shortages

MPs hear that inspectorate is interested in how school leaders are coping, as the use of non-specialist subject teachers increases

Headteachers will face questions from Ofsted on how well they are coping with teacher shortages, MPs were told today.

Joanna Hall, deputy director for schools at Ofsted, said: “One of the key questions we might ask, particularly of leaders, is most definitely that about teacher supply – how many subjects might be covered by temporary cover and the longitudinal picture of that and how it affects the school.”

She also told the Commons education committee that the inspectorate was interested in how well heads understood the issues surrounding teacher recruitment in their schools and how they affected pupil progress. “It is a key part of our judgement for leadership,” Ms Hall said.

MPs on the committee asked what that would mean in terms of Ofsted judgements. They wanted to know whether inadequate schools could escape an inadequate judgement if the problems were caused by teacher shortages and were not the headteacher’s fault. They also asked whether heads who didn’t fully grasp the issues in their school would be marked down.

Plans should be in place

Ms Hall said Ofsted would expect good headteachers to have plans in place to cope with shortages they faced in certain subjects.

“In terms of how you manage your workforce and deal with those particular issues, one would hope all leaders and governors have a clear picture of impact of whatever they are facing in their school,” she said. “Certainly in terms of good leadership and good high-quality teaching, one would expect to see evidence of that and how those subjects are taught, even if it is by a specialist.”

The committee heard that shortages of teachers in certain subjects meant that there had been an increase in lessons taught by non-specialists.

Statistics published by the Department for Education last year revealed that more than 20 per cent of maths lessons were taught by teachers without a relevant post A-level qualification in 2014, up from 17.3 per cent in 2013.

Mark Parrett, audit manager of the National Audit Office, told the committee that in 2015 out of 17 subject groups, only three had managed to meet their requirement for trainees.

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