Rising number of pupils is leading to a teacher shortage

The new academic year is upon us, bringing a new set of challenges. Let’s hope school leaders in particular managed to get a bit of sunshine over the summer – those lingering endorphins are going to come in handy as they get to grips with what 2015/16 may have in store for them!

Top of the list for most schools will be the looming teacher shortage due to the perfect storm of rising birth rates and declining numbers entering teacher training.

There is much debate about the reasons for this decline but no difference of opinion over the challenges schools are going to face dealing with the other half of the coin – more and more families queuing to get in, how to accommodate the extra numbers, and where to find the staff they need to educate them…

A few statistics will help make the problem clear:

• In 2014-2015 the number of students entering teacher training was 4,000 fewer than the Government’s target, and 7,700 fewer than in 2010.

• The Department for Education’s annual school census report has revealed a 2.1% increase in primary numbers. The primary school population in England has continued to rise sharply, with 94,000 extra pupils this year – the highest level in nearly 50 years.

• The demand for extra places is forecast to be another 460,000 during the next five years – a continuing and increasing pressure on the schools. There are now 87 primary schools with more than 800 pupils, up from 58 in just 2013. That pressure is now filtering up to secondary level.

The report also notes that ethnic minority pupils made up 71% of the increase, so language barriers are a potential increasing challenge and staff with additional language skills will be in huge demand.

Mindful of all of this (and given that our raison d’etre is to solve these problems, not suffer from them!) over the summer we’ve been very hard at work registering and vetting NQTs, qualified teachers and teaching assistants to help meet this demand in our schools. In this we have had the advantage of having a reputation among supply teachers for treating them a great deal better than some others in the business, which has made recruitment a little easier. It also means we hang on to our staff for longer.

While we aren’t complacent about our reputation or our staff levels (after all, the supply workforce is by its nature a particularly mobile and changing one) for now we are very pleased – and relieved! – to be able to say that as we go into September we have a large database of excellent, qualified and fully vetted staff signed up and ready to step in to both emergency day-to-day supply and longer term posts at short notice.

Our advice would be that schools with unexpected vacancies this September and those with posts they’ve been unable to recruit to would be wise to get themselves sorted with an agency which is going to look after them as soon as they can, as they’ll be in stiff competition to attract the right staff.

Similarly, teaching staff looking for work this academic year could do a lot worse than join a supply team. It’s a great way to sample a lot of different schools before settling for one that really clicks. Obviously, we’d like them to join us. Our books are pretty healthy already, but we work hard at being good to work for (we would say that, I know, but nonetheless it’s true) and there’s always more room for excellent, adaptable staff who are up for meeting with us the challenges that the world of education is now facing.