John Howson

How many additional teachers will be chasing the reduced number of teacher vacancies as a result of the covid-19 pandemic? The general thesis has always been that in a recession teacher vacancies reduce, as those in work postpone their departure either into retirement or for other reasons such as starting work outside of teaching. More former teachers may also be attracted to seek working in teaching once again as they are made redundant from their former jobs.

Looking back at the period between 2007 and 2010 that spans the period just before the last shock to the economy and the period where the economy levelled out and I first started predicting here would be teacher supply problems again in 2013, soon after starting this blog, the following trends emerge.

The number of teachers available for work increased. At that time the General Teaching Council for England registered teachers each March. Their data for those listing ‘supply teacher’ as their role increased as follows:

Supply Teachers
2007 34799
2008 33531
2009 50999
2010 45996

That was an increase of some 11,000 teachers or a 36% in supply teachers between March 2008 and March 2010. Between March 2008 and March 2009, the increase was even greater at 50%. In that recession, some were no doubt precautionary re-registrations to allow for the chance to work as a supply teacher if necessary.

The increase was mostly among teachers between the ages of 25 and 44

25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44
2007 72835 72978 62635 59165
2008 76116 74287 66577 60347
2009 79163 78305 71111 62530
2010 81723 83170 74944 64501

The largest increase was in teachers in their late 30s, where numbers increased by 20% between 2007 and 2010. At this distance we cannot tell how much of the increase was down to delayed departure for the profession and how much due to re-entrants seeking to work once again in teaching?

At the same time, the numbers wishing to be teachers also increased as the figures from the UCAS GTTR Scheme, taken from their 2010 annual report make clear.

PGCE applications
2007 53931
2008 51616
2009 63138
2010 67289

This was a 30% increase between 2008 and 2010.

Might we witness the same sorts of increases between 2020 and say 2024? We won’t know about the ‘out of work ‘ teachers, because with no GTCE to collect the data, the only possible source will be increased registrations with the main teacher associations or from universal credit or Labour force data for those declaring themselves as ‘teachers’. However, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may be able to provide comparative data from their GTCs.

Applications to train as a teacher will be easier to track. With better knowledge among potential applicants of the costs of training and possible changes to the bursary arrangements, we might not see such a large increase in applications to teaching in this recession unless unemployment really does hit 10% of the workforce. Then any concerns about working with children might be outweighed by the opportunity to secure a job at all.

Whether MATs and standalone academies will use the change to the supply situation to review wage levels and conditions of employment is not yet known, but there seems no reason why schools should pay large sums to recruit teachers using traditional paid advertising, except in rare circumstances.

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