It has been a war of words that has embroiled Headteachers and the government over recent months and years. Whilst school leaders claim they are struggling to recruit teachers, the government has been standing by their message of “retention rates have been broadly stable for the past 20 years, and the teaching profession continues to be an attractive career.”
Yet a damning report released by the Public Accounts Committee has provided weighting to the Headteacher argument that schools are gradually losing more and more teachers to other professions. Data shows that the number of teachers in secondary schools has dropped by just over 10,000, whilst the percentage of professionals leaving school settings has increased from 6% to 8% over the last five years.
With the BBC reporting that secondary school pupil numbers are set to increase by over 500,000 before 2025, the maths simply does not add up.
The report states, “the failure of the department (Department for Education) to get to grips with the number of teachers leaving puts additional pressure on schools faced with rising numbers of children needing a school place and the teachers to teach them.”
MPs processing the report added, “we expect the department to understand and have a view on the relationship between workload and retention.” Such a relationship, or lack of it, has been pinpointed as the main reason why teachers are leaving the profession.
The government responded by suggesting, “we are consulting on proposals to improve and increase development opportunities for teachers across the country and working with teachers, unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload with specific support for teachers at the start of their careers.”
However, this report does show that MPs are standing up and starting to recognise the recruitment problem in schools. Current workloads for teachers is unhealthy and unsustainable with many giving up the majority of their weekday evenings, and sometimes weekends, to ensure all of their planning, preparation and assessments are in place.
People on the ground and involved in the education system have been well aware of the problem for a long time. Yet, the question is, what are the government going to do to rectify the situation?’