The latest UCAS Teaching training statistics show that the total number of teacher training applications fell by 4% in July. This is an improvement on the dreadful figures from the previous month, when teacher training applications were down by a worrying 7% – but the number of people wanting to go into the profession is now 4% down on the same period last year.
The Department for Education, of course, will deny it exists, but there is no doubt that education is in the midst of a recruitment crisis. It has been on the cards for years. The warning signs were clearly there but the DfE took far too long to react. And, when it did finally act, the action it took – uninspiring and unsuccessful recruitment campaigns – has done little to improve the situation.
Teacher training applications fall by 20% in some subjects
Furthermore, the number of applications has fallen by 20% in certain subjects. For example, the number of would-be Physics teachers is down 20% from the same time last year. Maths teacher training applications have tumbled by 13% and Chemistry teacher training applications are also down by 10%.
Retention is as big a problem as recruitment
A major concern in teaching in the last few years is that, not only has recruitment been a struggle, retention has become an even bigger one.
Put simply, far too many recently qualified teachers are not sticking around in the profession. The number of teachers that last less than 5 years makes for shocking reading. Indeed, DfE statistics reveal that almost 1 in 8 of Physics trainees who completed their training in the summer of 2017 and gained QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), were not teaching just six months later. Fewer Physics trainees actually completed the training and were awarded QTS than in previous years too.
Will pay rises make a difference?
Of course, poor recruitment statistics in the profession have gone alongside an 8 year period of either pay freeze or pay cap. This is hardly conducive to attracting the best graduate talent into teaching.
The recently announced 3.5% pay rise could make a difference. On the face of it, it seems a step in the right direction. However, although teachers on the main scale (the level most new recruits enter the profession at) will receive the full 3.5% – as opposed to the 1% that leaders will get – there are already concerns with some schools informing their staff that they simply cannot afford to pass on the recommended pay rise.
Naturally, any such move will raise the likelihood of industrial action come September. This would be completely unsurprising, if the full 3.5% pay rise is not passed on to all main pay range teachers.
Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, was quick to claim that schools should have already budgeted for the first 1% of the pay award, and will need to fund this themselves. Schools are unlikely to withhold the award from staff – doing so would be an industrial relations disaster.
However, it should be remembered that the Institute of Fiscal Studies recently reported that, since the Tories came to power in 2010, school funding has been cut by 8%. The 3.5% pay award comes off the back of a 5 year 1% pay cap, and a pay freeze before that.
A 1% pay award for those on the leadership scale is hardly likely to entice career-driven graduates into the profession either. With inflation currently standing at 2.3%, a pay award of 1% is essentially a pay cut.
Only, genuine investment in teacher pay, alongside a genuine commitment to reduce workload for teachers will see the number of teacher training applications rise.