9.In September 2016, the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, told us “we have more teachers in our schools than ever before. The challenge is making sure it remains an attractive profession that gets the top graduates coming into it and can then hold on to those people once they have qualified”.
10.We wholeheartedly agree with the Secretary of State that teaching must remain an attractive profession. However, there are still unresolved problems with the number of teachers in the system, particularly in certain subjects and areas of the country, which the Government has yet to address. The quality of teaching is arguably the most important factor in determining the quality of our education system so it is of utmost importance that these issues are recognised and dealt with urgently.
11.Even though, overall, the number of teachers has so far kept pace with growing pupil numbers, there are signs that shortages are worsening in certain areas. Martin Thompson of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) told us “[teacher recruitment] has been a challenge for probably a number of years, and for three years an increasing challenge, and certainly now I think it is a crisis in some areas”.
12.The Government has missed its targets for initial teacher education for the last five years and this year there has been a decrease in the total number of new entrants to postgraduate and undergraduate ITT courses. Geography, biology and history were the only secondary school subjects that exceeded their target. The target for primary school teachers was also met, but all other secondary subjects were below target. Recruitment in computing missed the target by the biggest margin of all English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, with only 68% of ITT places filled. The proportion of the target for physics trainees recruited was 81%, and for mathematics 84%. Design and technology only reached 41% of its recruitment target this year. This raises questions about the Government’s recruitment strategy.
13.Although the primary teacher target is consistently met, this may be masking problems within the primary sector. James Noble-Rogers from Universities Council for the Education of Teachers told us:
most primary head teachers I speak to are struggling to recruit enough teachers and are doubtful about the teacher supply model suggestion that we are overtraining on primary teachers.
14.Primary teachers teach across each area of the curriculum and so need a wide range of specialist knowledge. Primary schools often lack science and maths expertise, as reported by the Wellcome Trust: “very few schools have access to high levels of science expertise and [ … ] strategic leadership in the subject is weak”. James Noble-Rogers told us a key reason for this was:
The new recruitment methodology, which NCTL [National College for Teaching and Leadership] has introduced, which is basically first come, first served until the national target has been hit, basically means that ITT providers are recruiting as quickly as they can to primary generalist courses. Places for primary specialist maths courses are not separately identified. They tend to recruit later, but once the national target has been hit, recruitment ceases, including to primary specialist maths.
15.There have been recruitment shortages of secondary teachers of physics, mathematics and design & technology for many years. There are several factors that contribute to the shortages in these subjects. In its report Training New Teachers, the NAO described how the pool of graduates in some shortage subjects restricts the number of teachers that can be recruited: “to meet its 2014/15 target for history trainees, the Department needed to attract 1 in 25 history graduates; for maths and physics, it needed to attract 1 in every 5 maths and physics graduates”.
16.We heard the strengthening economy of recent years has led to science and maths graduates being in higher demand from other industries, which may offer higher salaries. Peter Sellen, Chief Economist at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), told us that some shortages were to be expected: “it is what you would expect in an economy that has been improving recently and with the rate of pay of teachers declining”. However, reports suggest that pay is not the most important factor for teachers remaining in the profession although it may still affect recruitment of new teachers. We discuss the retention of teachers in greater depth in Chapter 4.
17.The Government has issued bursaries for ‘high-needs’ subjects such as physics and mathematics for several years, including up to £30,000 for a physics graduate with a first class degree, to attract top graduates into the profession. However, the Department is yet to produce its evidence on long-term positive impacts of these bursaries given the level of investment.
18.The Department is planning to publish research on the impact of bursaries in April 2018. In the meantime, investment of a large amount of resource into the bursary schemes continues. The Minister told us “we have introduced, and continue to introduce, generous bursaries, and we tweak those every year to reflect the priorities”. For example, the Minster told us of more bursaries directed towards graduates with first class degrees in high-needs subjects such as physics. However, the Minister did not provide evidence for the policy and distribution of bursaries.
19.As well as issues with particular subjects at secondary school, regional differences in teacher supply are widely acknowledged. School Direct ITT places do not appear to be established in areas with the greatest need. Sam Freedman, Executive Director of Programmes at Teach First, described the situation:
I think one of the effects of School Direct has been to concentrate new people coming into the profession into schools that are already doing quite well because they tend to have the most advanced and successful School Direct programmes. They also tend to be in more urban locations.
20.While not all teachers choose to stay in the area where they carried out their ITT, many do and the location of providers impacts on the teacher supply in that area. The Minister recognised the regional variations and said that the Department “do want to make sure that we have a geographical spread of institutions and training, as well as sufficient numbers overall”.
21.However, it is unclear whether the Government has a systematic, long-term plan for how to encourage more teachers into areas where there is highest need. In the White Paper, Educational excellence everywhere, published in March 2016 plans were outlined for a National Teaching Service to “help schools by ensuring that great teachers are encouraged to work where they are most needed”. The National Teacher Service intended to match middle and senior leaders with the “schools that need them most” in areas of the country struggling most to recruit teachers. It was launched as a pilot focusing on the North West in January 2016 but was only able to recruit 54 teachers out of a target 100 and was dropped in December 2016.
22.As well as existing challenges in the recruitment and retention of teachers, a number of factors are likely to increase pressure on the system:
23.The Public Accounts Committee called on the Government to “develop a clear plan for teacher supply covering at least the next 3 years, detailing how targets will be met, underpinned by better data on the accuracy of its estimates and independent testing of its teacher supply model”. The Government responded to this with an outline of existing steps to tackle recruitment, but did not include timescales or how initiatives will contribute to meeting its targets. The response also stated “the White Paper published on 17 March 2016 set out some of the measures the Government intends to take to improve the supply of teachers”. There has since been a move away from the White Paper and the Government is yet to announce what will replace it.
24.The subject of ITT emerged as a recurring theme through this inquiry. Currently, ITT is undertaken via a higher education institute (HEI)-led route or a school-led route. School-led routes include salaried options (School Direct or Teach First) or fee-based options (School Direct or School Centred ITT). The proportion of teachers entering the profession via the school-led route has increased this year to 56%.
25.We heard that the current diversity of ITT provision on offer has benefits and drawbacks. Prospective teachers are able to pick a course that suits them: with or without a salary; school or HEI-led; and in different regions. However, the wide variety can cause confusion and many prospective teachers may not be aware of the differences, or similarities, between the different routes.
26.There is no central application system for school-led ITT so applicants may apply to several individual schools. Sam Freedman told us “you have to apply to multiple schools if you want to go through a School Direct programme, unless you are absolutely certain which school you want to teach in”. He went on to say that a central allocation system, where there was some central control over where teachers are placed in the country, could help to ease some of the regional recruitment shortages. However, one of the perceived benefits of the school-led route is the choice it offers to potential recruits.
27.The Government previously set annual targets for all ITT providers using the teacher supply model, which had a destabilising effect on the system as a whole. Professor John Howson from TeachVac told us that “annual targets with no indication as to the likely continuation from year to year are, I think, destabilising for anybody who is trying to plan what is, in effect, a business”. For the most high-performing ITT providers, multi-year targets have now been introduced, but all ITT providers, universities and school-led, need to be able to plan for more than one year to be able to deliver high-quality ITT provision. James Noble-Rogers gave an example of this:
If a university or SCITT is going to retain, for example, someone with expertise in geography, they need to have an idea of how many geography teachers they are going to be expected to train to meet the needs of local schools over a three to five-year period.
28.Schools face increasing challenges of teacher shortages, particularly within certain subjects and regions. The Government is aware of these issues, yet needs to identify a strategic, long-term plan to effectively address them. The Government has missed recruitment targets for the last five years, and in 2016/17 the number of graduates starting initial teacher training fell.
29.Rising pupil numbers and changes to school accountability, including the Government’s focus on subjects within the EBacc, will exacerbate existing problems, increasing demand for teachers in subjects experiencing shortages. The failure of the National Teaching Service leaves a gap in the Government’s plans to tackle regional shortages.
30.The number of different routes into teaching are not always well understood by applicants and can be confusing. The absence of a central application system for school-led ITT leads to inefficient application systems and does little to address regional shortages.
31.The Government and National College for Teaching and Leadership should develop a long-term plan to improve both the supply of new and retention of existing teachers over the next 10 years. This plan should be published before the end of the school summer term 2017 and include:
10 Oral evidence taken on 14 September 2016, , Q273
11 National Audit Office, Training New Teachers, HC (2015–16) February 2016
13 Department for Education and National College for Teaching and Leadership, , November 2016
15 Wellcome Trust, , September 2014, p 3
17 National Audit Office, Training New Teachers, HC (2015–16) February 2016
19 NFER, , November 2015, p 1
20 National Audit Office, Training New Teachers, HC (2015–16) February 2016, p 11
25 Department for Education, Educational excellence everywhere, , March 2016 p 24
26 Department for Education, , 29 January 2016
27 , TES, December 2016
28 Department for Education, , July 2016
30 Committee of Public Accounts, Third Report of Session 2016–17, , HC 73, para 1
31 Treasury minutes, Government responses to the Committee of Public Accounts on the Thirty Seventh and the Thirty Ninth reports from Session 2015–16; and the First to the Thirteenth reports from Session 2016–17, , November 2016, p 23
32 Department for Education, , November 2016
20 February 2017