One of the biggest challenges facing the education system in the UK is the growing escalation of the teacher crisis. Schools the length and breadth of the country are facing teacher shortages, and in the current climate, the issue is only growing worse. But what’s the true scale of the problem, and how is the current climate contributing to the existing problems within the teaching profession?
The Scale of the Teaching Crisis
The Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England 2018 Briefing Paper, produced by the House of Commons, shines some light on the true scale of teacher shortages in the UK, and how this could impact schools in the near future. The report stated that between November 2015 and November 2016, 50,110 teachers left the state-funded sector.
In 2015 and 2016, more teachers left teaching than the number that joined, the first instance on record. In the year ending November 2016, there were 2,620 less teachers in the profession than there was in the year before.
Overall, UK schools are facing a shortfall of 30,000 teachers between secondary and further education. This is partly due to the government having missed its recruitment targets for five years in a row, including missing the 2017 target by 3,000 teachers. However, in the current climate, more is contributing to teacher retainment problems than just missed recruitment targets…
What’s Causing the Teaching Crisis?
It seems that in the current climate, the teaching profession is facing problems from all sides, with a vast number of reasons at play as to why more teachers are leaving the profession and less are willing to join. Two of the biggest causes that are leading to the development of even more problems, are budget cuts and increasing pupil numbers.
Since 2010, spending on each pupil in English schools has decreased by 8%, local authority support has been reduced by more than half, and funding for sixth forms has been reduced by a quarter. Year on year, the number of pupils per school is also growing. Between 2017 and 2018, there has been a 0.8% increase in pupils in the school system, as 66,000 additional children enter classrooms.
The higher pupil numbers and reduced funding has left many teachers in the UK overworked, with more to do and less support doing it. More is being asked of teachers, from covering additional classes and taking on more pupils to working far longer hours.
The challenging current climate has also led to an increase in mental health concerns amongst teachers, as work-related stress becomes too much for many teachers. The Education Support Partnership has called for urgent action to address key problems, such as the 57% of teachers who considered quitting the profession because of their health, and the 47% of teachers who have felt work-related anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
Is There a Solution to Teacher Retention?
Teacher retention is at an all-time low in the UK, but the government has put in place some schemes and incentives to attract new teachers. As outlined in the Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England 2018 Briefing Paper, the government is committed to training more physics and maths teachers, there are bursaries for attracting graduates to pursue a career in teaching, and there’s previously been support available for returning teachers – the Supporting Returning Teachers Pilot.
However, while there’s been some action taken to address the problem, it’s not seen much success. The Supporting Returning Teachers Pilot did not lead to high conversions, and the bursaries in place to encourage graduates also has conversion problems. Currently, the climate, whilst dire, may not see any drastic change in the immediate future.
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