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Teacher shortage reaching crisis levels – what needs to change?

Tagged In:  ITN Mark, school
21 July 2015 Posted by: Roger Marsh , Managing Director

Damning research has revealed that four out of 10 teachers are quitting in their first year – an enormous drop-out rate that is undoing the years of hard work put in through the university and college teacher training courses. Combined with the fact that there were 27,000 fewer applications to become a teacher this year compared to last, it’s clear that there is a strong possibility of a demonstrable shortage of teachers in the near-future. What can be done about it?
As with most widespread problems, there isn’t a simple fix. We think that there are different angles to tackle the problem, split between schools, education recruitment consultancies, universities and the government:

The Government

The UK government is often the quickest to be accused of failing teachers – the power it wields can create widespread change over a relatively short period of time. Here are some ideas worth considering regarding top-down change:

Listen to teachers

A common criticism of governments failing schools is the lack of regard for teachers’ opinions. Flagship schemes such as performance related pay and the threat of replacing a failing school with an Academy or Trust have both received a backlash from teachers: 9/10 teachers claim inspections do not improve student results, while 88% of teachers have suffered from stress, 72% with anxiety and 45% with depression. Is it worth listening to what teachers have to say? After all, it’s the teachers that spend countless hours on the school premises every week and have the truest understanding of the issues that matter most.

Scrap performance related pay

Many claim that performance related pay (PRP) is politicising the working environment for teachers. While evidently brought in with good intentions, does it create a sense of individualism in the classroom? Recently described as ‘cut-throat’, PRP may prevent cross-classroom cooperation; for example, offers of senior teachers taking unruly children into their own classes may diminish, while extra-curricular activities are difficult to quantify in value. The impact of an arguably unfair (opposed by the NUT) performance benchmark could drive teachers, new and old, to leave the sector, contributing to an ongoing shortage of qualified teachers.


Universities and colleges have a duty of due care to ensure their PGCE courses are rigorous enough to prepare teachers for the reality of teaching in schools. While much of it is spent in the classroom, with 4/10 teachers quitting in their first year, there is evidently an issue of how well-prepared NQTs are. Is enough time spent in classrooms? Should there be more classroom training theory? Are teachers psychologically prepared to join a school full-time? The drop-out statistics suggests perhaps not.


Schools are best-placed to understand their unique needs. Are they able to take some matters into their own hands to relieve pressure from teachers? One recent proposal has been the outsourcing of marking, said to provide reliable quality marking at a very low price. But does this remove a key aspect of a teacher’s professional duty towards their pupils? It is undeniable that long hours contributes to teachers’ stress and the high number of teachers leaving the industry, so would the benefit of fewer hours outweigh the stated concerns? These are the questions that schools are best placed to answer, not individual consultants or researchers.

What do you think?

We care about all our teachers: primary, secondary, assistants, NQTs, headteachers and everything in between. Many of our recruiters have strong experience as teachers themselves and understand all the tremendous ups and downs being a teacher brings. But the constant to-and-fro between government and schools doesn’t always bring the best results. We value your opinions – do you have a view on our blog? If so, get in touch! We’d love to hear what you make of the current situation.

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