Survey shows damage of teacher shortages

01 March 2016

A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) shows the damage being caused by the teacher recruitment crisis.

Eighty four per cent of respondents said that teacher shortages are having a detrimental impact on the education they are able to provide.

Many are having to use more supply agency staff (70 per cent) or ask teachers to take subjects in which they are not specialists (73 per cent). Other action includes merging classes (25 per cent).

Nearly nine in 10 respondents said they are experiencing difficulties in recruiting teachers, and nearly three quarters said the situation was worse or much worse than it was 12 months ago.

The subjects in which most respondents experienced recruitment difficulties were maths, science and English. Many also had problems with finding staff to teach languages, geography and history – all of which are English Baccalaureate subjects which the Government wants 90 per cent of children to be taking at GCSE from 2020 onwards.

Most said the recruitment situation was creating additional workload and stress among staff.

The survey was answered by nearly 900 school and college leaders, the majority of whom represent secondary schools, both academy and maintained.

A recent report by the National Audit Office said indicators suggest that teacher shortages are growing and that secondary school teacher training places are proving particularly difficult to fill.

The findings come ahead of ASCL’s Annual Conference which takes place in Birmingham on March 4 and 5. Teacher shortages will be a major focus of the conference.

Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Teacher shortages leave schools with no option other than to use stop-gap solutions. Schools have to put teachers in front of classes. If they cannot recruit the staff they need, this means using supply staff and non-specialists to cover the gaps.

“While these staff often do a very good job in difficult circumstances, it is no substitute for having permanent teachers who are experts in their subjects. 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.”

One headteacher said: “In my school we have found it very difficult to appoint a maths teacher after one resigned last year. 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. We’ve said more than once that it’s a good job Ofsted came last year - and gave us ‘good’. If they were coming back this year I would be very nervous about the outcome, given most teams’ intensive scrutiny of every maths and English teacher in school”.

ASCL survey – January 2016

Q1. Are you experiencing any difficulties in recruiting teachers?
Yes: 89.25% (789 responses)
No: 10.75% (95)

Total responses: 884

Q2. How does the recruitment situation compare to 12 months ago?
Much worse: 23.92% (211)
Worse: 48.98% (432)
About the same: 26.53% (234)
Better: 0.45% (4)
Much better: 0.11% (1)

Total responses: 882

Q3. If you are struggling to recruit teachers, which are the problem areas?
Leadership posts: 12.50% (103)
Maths: 78.16% (644)
Science: 74.51% (614)
English: 56.92% (469)
Languages: 32.65% (269)
Geography: 25.12% (207)
History: 13.83% (114)
Other: 25.24% (208)

Total responses: 824

Q4. If you are struggling to recruit, what action have you had to take?
More supply agency staff: 70.13% (573)
Subjects taught by non-specialists: 72.83% (595)
Merging classes: 24.60% (201)
More lessons taught by headteacher/ deputy headteacher 41.74% (341)
Working with group of schools to recruit/ share teachers 21.42% (175)
Other action: 15.18% (124)

Total responses: 817

Q5. Is the recruitment situation creating additional workload and stress among staff?
Yes: 87.12% (751)
No: 12.88% (111)

Total responses: 862

Q6. Is the recruitment situation having a detrimental impact on the education you are able to provide?
Yes: 84.11% (725)
No: 15.89% (137)

Total responses: 862

Q7. What is your type of school/ college?
Maintained: 37.29% (330)
Academy: 57.40% (508)
College: 1.24% (11)
Other: 4.07% (36)

Total responses: 885

Q8. What is your job title?
Head or principal: 47.57% (421)
Deputy head/ principal: 18.19% (161)
Assistant head/ principal: 12.43% (110)
Business leader/ manager: 18.53% (164)
Other: 3.28% (29)

Total responses: 885