Labour says government has created ‘perfect storm’ in England’s teaching workforce

Labour has accused the government of creating “a perfect storm” in England’s teaching workforce, after analysis revealed the scale of the crisis, with teachers old and new quitting the classroom and too few replacing them.

A teacher who qualified in 2010 is 15% more likely to have left teaching within a decade than one who qualified in 2000, according to Labour’s analysis of the most recently available official figures.

There is also a concerning gap between the number of teachers quitting the profession and those entering it, Labour says. Its research found 36,262 left the teaching profession in 2020/21, compared with 34,394 who joined via initial teacher training, leaving a shortfall of 1,868.

The government’s own teacher training statistics, published in December, revealed recruitment down by a fifth, which was described as “catastrophic”. Fresh analysis by Labour, however, found that outside London recruitment is down by nearly a third compared with 2019/20.

Labour says the recruitment crisis threatens to jeopardise the quality of pupils’ education and harm the life chances of children, particularly in the north of England and the Midlands.

It is also at the centre of talks between government and unions, who say the erosion of teacher pay has made the job less attractive. Barring a last-minute breakthrough in negotiations, the National Education Union is due to hold its second day of strike action next Tuesday in the northern, Yorkshire and Humber regions in pursuit of its claim for a fully funded above-inflation pay claim.

The shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said: “The Conservatives have created the perfect storm in our teaching workforce, with teachers old and new leaving and with too few replacing them.

“Our children will reap the whirlwind of lower school standards and worse life chances in years to come unless the Conservatives get to grips with the dangerous exodus of teachers that began under their watch.”

She went on: “Labour will recruit an additional 6,500 teachers to fill vacancies and reduce workloads on our overworked, overstretched and undervalued teaching workforce and drive up standards of education.”

Further analysis by the Liberal Democrats showed the government has missed its recruitment targets every year for the last five years in maths, physics and modern languages. The total shortfall over the five years is 3,112 maths teachers, 6,367 physics teachers and 3,519 modern-language teachers.

The Liberal Democrats are also concerned that too many secondary-school pupils are not being taught by subject specialists because of recruitment and retention problems. In physics, for example, where the shortage of specialist teachers is most critical, 40.6% of teachers don’t have a relevant post-A-level qualification, up from 37.3% five years ago.

Liberal Democrat analysis also reveals the scale of burnout among young teachers. In the last five years, a total of 102,588 teachers have given up teaching before reaching their 40th birthday.

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Munira Wilson, education spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said: “The Conservatives are failing our children badly. They are missing their own recruitment targets and driving thousands of young teachers out of the profession, leaving millions of children to be taught by someone who isn’t an expert in their subject.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The number of teachers in the system remains high and there are now more than 465,000 teachers working in state-funded schools across the country, which is 24,000 more than in 2010.

“Our bursaries and scholarships worth up to £27,000 and £29,000 tax-free are helping to encourage talented trainees to key subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry, and computing. On top of this, these teachers can receive a levelling up premium worth up to £3,000 tax-free for in years 1 to 5 of their careers.

“As well as making the highest pay award in 30 years – 5% for experienced teachers and more for those early in their careers, including an up to 8.9% increase to starting salary – we are having ongoing conversations with unions on issues concerning recruitment and retention.”

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