John Howson

Last week the publication of the DfE’s School Workforce Census data revealed the lowest number of Qualified Entrants into the profession in England since 2011/12. The number given for 2019/20 was 43,405 and for 2011/12 42,434. In 2014.15m the number was just over 50,000.

Now, there may be several possible reasons for the low number this year. There might be more unqualified teachers in classrooms. Although possible, the decline in School Direct Salaried route into the profession and an absence of significant growth from Teach First makes this unlikely to be the reason. Are school rolls falling, meaning less demand for teachers. Well, they are at the bottom end of the primary school, in Reception, but not elsewhere and, in the secondary sector, intakes were higher in September 2019 than the previous year.

Perhaps existing teachers were staying put? It is certainly true that fewer teachers retired or left the service than in the previous year, so that might possibly have produced less demand for new teachers. Of course, that is a complex picture, especially in the secondary sector, where demand may alter by subject.

Another reason might be that there was a demand for teachers, not met because of insufficient trainees. It is true that entry into training in 2018, the new entrants into schools in 2019, didn’t meet the expectations of the Teacher Supply Model across the board, but it wasn’t an especially poor year for recruitment on to teacher preparation courses.

Worth considering as a reason is that pressures on school funding reduced the demand for teachers and, as a result, there were fewer entrants. A quick look at changes in Pupil Teacher Ratios over time suggests that this may well be part of the reason.

Schools, especially secondary schools, are also remodelling their workforce and may be employing fewer Qualified Teachers. A glance at the DfE’s vacancy web site now shows a range of tutor and other job titles not paid on the Teachers Pay Scales. Indeed, last week, some 24% of vacancies listed by the DfE didn’t require ‘Qualified’ teachers to fill them.

A significant proportion of the reduction in entrants is among those aged under 25. These will mostly be newly qualified teachers either entering directly from their preparation course or after a short time.

Entrants to Teaching Under 25 and Qualified Teachers 2011/12 11,253
2012/13 12,843
2013/14 13,405
2014/15 14,483
2015/16 15,001
2016/17 13,471
2017/18 12,375
2018/19 11,840
2019/20 11265

Entrants to Teaching – Qualified Teachers

Source DfE School Workforce data abstracted by author on 6th July 2020

Since 2015/16 the number of Under-25s that are Qualified Teachers entering the profession according to the DfE data has declined by around 3,700. A drop of some 20% from the peak in the past nine years. Since this is the age-group from which will come future school leaders, such a decline must be viewed with concern.

In the current world of reduced vacancies, this data, if correct, should start a conversation about the teachers schools are choosing to employ for the vacancies that there are? NQTs or experienced staff?

I have written elsewhere about the idea of a supernumerary scheme to ensure the profession doesn’t lose large numbers of new entrants, especially if many of the Class of 2020 cannot find teaching roles. They are a valuable resource and should not be overlooked. Without their services, schools might not be able to survive a second wave of teachers taking time out due to the need to self-isolate following local lockdowns during the autumn and winter.

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