Training enough new teachers, of the right quality, is central to the performance of our schools and the life chances of pupils. We are, therefore, disappointed that the Department for Education (the Department) has missed its targets to fill teacher training places four years running, with significant shortfalls in some subjects. There is a lot of good teaching delivered by teachers who do excellent jobs day in, day out, in classrooms across the country. One consequence of shortfalls is that a significant proportion of lessons in some important subjects is being taught by teachers without relevant post-A-level qualifications.
The Department is reassured by the national picture that its statistics paint about teacher numbers but these numbers disguise significant local variation and do not reflect the difficulties headteachers experience across the country when they try to recruit teachers. From its national vantage point the Department does not understand, and shows little curiosity about, the size and extent of teacher shortages around the country and assumes headteachers will deal with gaps. Despite repeatedly missing its targets, the Department shows no sense of leadership or urgency in making sure there are sufficient new teachers to meet schools’ future needs. The Department has been introducing new methods for recruiting teachers for some years but many of its plans are experimental, unevaluated and still evolving. Its approach is reactive and lacks coherence. It has introduced new school-led training but the result is confusing for applicants and the annual changes to the way training places are allocated mean that training providers cannot plan for the future. Furthermore, the Department was unable to provide good evidence that the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on training routes and bursaries, some of which have been in place for a number of years, are resulting in more, better quality teachers in classrooms. While the system needs a degree of flexibility, the Department should also try to increase stability and do more to assess which of its approaches work and which do not. We are aware that some of the measures proposed in the March 2016 white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, if implemented effectively, could address some of our recommendations but for the moment the challenges, and our conclusions, remain unaddressed.
2 June 2016