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'No plan' to fix teacher shortage

Public Accounts Committee report says DfE 'fails to understand' difficulties in school recruitment

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 10, 2016 | People, policy, politics

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the government must address the incoherent approach to teacher training, in order to fill places for future vacancies.

The Committee has highlighted variations in the availability of training across England and the ‘confusing’ routes into teaching as a barrier to improving quality. 

The Department for Education (DfE) spent £620 million on a bursary scheme over the five years to 2014/15, the value of which the PAC is unsure.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: 'Training teachers is too important to get wrong but the government has taken too little responsibility for getting it right. 

“The Department for Education has repeatedly missed its target to fill training places. At the same time, it has remained woefully aloof from concerns raised by frontline staff and freely available evidence. 

“The Department takes comfort from national statistics but pays insufficient heed to the fact that teaching happens locally, in individual schools. 

“It is a basic point but one worth spelling out for the Government’s benefit: variations in the supply and quality of teachers at local level can significantly affect pupils' educational attainment and life prospects.  

“The Department sees a role for its School Direct programme in addressing this yet more than half of state-funded schools, many of them in isolated or deprived areas, are not involved.” 

The Committee is also concerned that a growing number of pupils are taught by teachers without a subject-relevant post A-level qualification. 

Hiller continued: “This highlights the disconnect between real-world problems and a government department whose haphazard approach to teacher training risks putting pupils' futures in jeopardy.

We were alarmed to learn that so many pupils are being taught by teachers without higher level qualifications in the subjects they are teaching. Young people's futures should not be limited because of a shortage of subject-qualified teachers.
“The Department must develop sustainable policies that fully consider the recruitment difficulties facing schools, the shortage of applicants for training places and the educational needs of pupils.” 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the PAC is right to call for an urgent review of training to make up the shortfall in teacher supply and qualifications.

“School leaders are often faced with the choice between appointing someone without the right specialism, or not appointing at all, Hobby said. “It’s important that we get a clearer picture of the extent of this, as currently this masks wider recruitment issues in particular subjects.

“Government planning does not include training SEND teachers, and there are still no signs that this will change. We’d ask that reporting on teachers working outside their specialism also covers SEND.

“Last year the allocation of training on a first-come-first-served basis was widely reported to have been a disaster for training institutions, but also for candidates themselves. We need to see a return to a system of allocation that takes into account regional priorities. It’s right that the Committee calls for bursaries to offer value for money, but we would reiterate our call for the government to reverse cuts to primary bursaries because of clear shortages within the sector.

“We have seen a shift in recent weeks by the Department in its willingness to engage with school leaders on this subject, and we look forward to building on this. There is much more to do to solve the recruitment crisis.”

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