Teacher shortages in key subjects 'worsening', report warns

England's schools are suffering from worsening teacher shortages, particularly in key subjects such as physics and maths, MPs have warned.

The Government has failed to deal with the problem, missing recruitment targets for the past five years in a row, according to the Commons Education Select Committee.

In a highly critical new report, it called for urgent action, including more focus on retaining teachers once they are in the classroom, and suggesting a cap on the number of hours teachers work.

Committee chairman Neil Carmichael warned that the quality of education children receive relies on good teachers and that ministers must put in place a long-term plan to tackle issues with recruiting and retaining school staff.

"The Government invests a large amount of public money into improving the status of the teaching profession, but there are still major challenges with teacher supply, some of which appear to be worsening," the committee said.

It argues that while ministers have recognised that there are issues, it has not addressed the problem and lacks a long-term plan to do so.

Many initial teacher training (ITT) targets have been missed, including in core English Baccalaureate subjects - the subjects ministers say gives teenagers a good academic grounding for the future.

"Recruitment in computing missed the target by the biggest margin of all EBacc subjects, with only 68% of ITT places filled," the report says.

"The proportion of the target for physics trainees recruited was 81%, and for mathematics 84%. Design and technology only reached 41% of its recruitment target this year. This raises questions about the Government's recruitment strategy."

The introduction of the EBacc increases pressure on demand for teachers in certain subjects, the committee warns, adding that other issues such as rising pupil numbers are also impacting on teacher shortages.

The report suggests: "Recruiting new teachers has consistently been the Government's focus to address shortages. While recruiting sufficient new teachers is, of course, necessary, the Government should place greater emphasis on improving teacher retention.

"Not only is this a more cost-effective way to tackle some of the issues, but more teachers staying in the profession for longer would strengthen the pool of leadership positions."

A key reason for teachers considering leaving the profession is workload, the committee says, and more should be done to tackle this issue.

"All school leaders should promote a culture of wellbeing in their schools, which will include taking greater account of teacher workload. This could include implementing the recommendations of the workload challenge or 'capping' the number of hours teachers work outside of teaching time."

The committee heard that in Nottingham, education chiefs have produced a charter for schools to sign up to that caps the amount of time teachers work beyond their directed hours, which includes tasks such as marking work, planning and attending meetings as well as teaching pupils.

Mr Carmichael, Tory MP for Stroud, said: "The quality of education our children receive fundamentally relies on the quality of teachers in our schools. Schools are facing significant teacher shortages as a result of the Government consistently failing to meet recruitment targets.

"The Government must now put in place a long-term plan to tackle the problems of recruiting and retaining teachers and address issues, such as teacher workload and access to professional development, which can drive teachers away from the classroom and into alternative careers."

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Schools want to be able to put permanent teachers who are experts in their fields in front of classes and this is what parents and pupils rightly want too.

"If, as a country, we are to compete in a globalised environment, it is absolutely vital that we are able to do so."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "This report should act as a wake-up call to ministers that falling back on sticking plaster solutions such as the failed National Teaching Service will do nothing to address the systemic causes of the teacher supply crisis."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "There are more teachers in England's schools than ever before with secondary postgraduate recruitment at its highest since 2011. We are investing more than £1.3billion in recruitment over this parliament and have recruited more trainees in key subjects like physics and maths than last year.

"We recognise there are challenges. The Secretary of State has set out her ambition to continue driving up standards through investment in professional development so the best teachers stay in the profession. Initiatives like these, the opportunity areas programme and the Teaching and Leadership Fund will also help increase recruitment and retention in areas that have struggled."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "Recruitment targets are being missed, school budgets are being cut for the first time in decades and we have thousands more unqualified teachers teaching in our schools.

"Children deserve better than this Tory government that is failing to deliver on its most basic of tasks."

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