Date published: 2nd November 2019

Published by: John Howson


As a result of the general election, the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession meeting fixed for Monday has been cancelled. Below is the report I would have provided to the meeting about my views on the labour market for teachers in 2020.

APPG on The Teaching Profession – November 2019 meeting

By John Howson johnohowson@gmail.com

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September, courses that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, especially in the secondary sector, the picture is still one of shortages. The DfE’s ITT Census will be published on Thursday 28th November, (presumably subject to any purdah restrictions as a result of the general election).  The following is based upon an analysis of UCAS offers data published in September 2019. The DfE has unfortunately cancelled an update to the Teacher Compendium that would have provided more data on retention for individual sectors and subjects.

Sadly, many subjects do not appear to have reached the DfE’s estimate of trainee numbers, as set out in their Teach Supply Model (TSM) for 2019. I am especially anxious for both mathematics and physics, where the UCAS data has likely outcomes below the numbers accepted in 2018. In both cases this number was not enough to satisfy demand from schools in 2019, even before the increase in pupil numbers is factored into the equation for 2020. Fortunately, the number of biologists is likely to be at a record level, and this supply line will help offset any shortages of physical scientists.

The lack of mathematics teachers may need to be covered by trainees from subjects such as geography, where trainee numbers remain healthy, as they do in history and physical education. Many history trainees will need to find a second subject, as there is unlikely to be enough vacancies to support the present level of trainee numbers.

Happily, Religious Education has had a good year, with offers coming close to its projected need identified by the TSM, assuming all those offered places actually turned up at the start of their courses. Design and Technology fared slightly better this year than last year’s disastrous recruitment round, but will still fall far short of requirements, as will Business Studies. IT also appears to have suffered from a poor recruitment round into courses in 2019.  Elsewhere, outcomes may be close to last year’s, so there should be enough teachers of modern languages overall, although whether with the combination of languages needed is not known. Similarly, the number of trainee teachers of English may cause problems in some parts of the country in 2020, most notably London and the Home Counties and any other areas where the school population is growing.

As a result of this analysis, there could be three possible scenarios for 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives. The recent decline in the birth rate may start to affect teacher vacancy levels in the primary sector in 2020, as some schools consider the effect of declining rolls on future budgets and start to take steps to avoid creating deficit budgets.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is an extremely unlikely scenario for 2020 unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.

Data regarding vacancies can be supplied for a small fee by TeachVac: enquiries@oxteachserv.com

Data are available down to local authority level and by subject and phase for primary and secondary sectors.

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