Nine out of 10 heads are struggling to recruit teachers, research shows

Nearly three-quarters of school leaders say the recruitment situation is worse now than it was a year ago

Nine in 10 secondary schools are struggling to recruit teachers, according to new research that lays bare the extent of the teacher recruitment crisis.

A survey of nearly 900 school leaders by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found that 89 per cent said they were “experiencing difficulties” in recruiting teachers.

And 73 per cent said the recruitment situation was now worse or much worse than it was a year ago.

Heads told the ASCL that shortages had forced them to use non-specialist teachers, merge classes and make greater use of supply agency staff.

Last week Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that teacher supply was “reaching situation critical”. Sir Michael said new teachers should be given golden-handcuffs deals to prevent them from leaving the country for international schools as soon as they qualified.

One headteacher, responding to the survey, said: “The only way we’ve been able to provide a teacher for every maths class is to ask teachers of other subjects to step into the breach.

“This is hardly ideal – I have a non-specialist teaching one of the Year 11 maths sets, for example – but there simply aren’t the teachers out there to be able to fill the gaps.

“Naturally, we’re very concerned about the impact on our maths results this year.”

‘Extra stress and workload’

Of those questioned, 87 per cent said recruitment problems were creating extra stress and a higher workload for staff, and 84 per cent said they were having a detrimental impact on pupils’ education.

The worst shortages were in maths and science, where 78 per cent and 75 per cent respectively said they had struggled to find teachers.

Heads also reported shortages in other critical English Baccalaureate subjects such as English, languages and geography. Extra teachers will be required in these subjects to meet the government’s expectation that 90 per cent of students take GCSEs in five “core academic subjects” by 2020.

One in four schools has merged classes as a result of teacher shortages, the survey found. Seventy per cent of respondents said they were using more supply teachers and 73 per cent said more staff were teaching subjects in which they were not specialists.

Malcolm Trobe, the ASCL’s interim general secretary, said: “Without this supply of teachers there is a danger that some of the progress which has been made will be lost. It will certainly be extremely difficult if not impossible to raise standards further.

“We are calling on the government to do more to promote and incentivise teaching as a career. We would be very happy to work with ministers on an action plan.”

The union has said teacher shortages will be the “major focus” of its annual conference, which takes place in Birmingham on 4-5 March.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “As part of our drive to achieve educational excellence everywhere, we want all schools to be able to recruit high-quality teachers.

“The government is investing hundreds of millions in teacher recruitment, offering generous bursaries and scholarships in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, plus backing schemes like Teach First and the National Teaching Service to get great teachers where they’re most needed – and that’s why we’ve given schools unprecedented freedom over staff pay, allowing them to attract the brightest and the best.

“We are committed to raising the status of teaching and want to work with ASCL and the profession to make it an attractive career choice.

“This is our best ever generation of teachers, and Ofsted results show that children in England continue to have the best chance they have ever had of attending a good or outstanding school. This is in no small measure thanks to the professionalism of teachers and their quality of teaching.”

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