Only a couple of years ago the education press were reporting that many teachers including English NQTs and even some mathematics NQTs were unemployed or on temporary contracts which they pointed out, was not a good way to start their teaching careers. Now that trend is said to be reversing, especially for: English NQTs, Mathematics NQTs, science and modern foreign languages. So what causes this “boom and bust” pattern in teacher training and recruitment? Well, the initial cause was the post war baby boom and the ripples in the birth rate which occur every 20-25 years or so. It may appear astonishing, but teacher training and recruitment has never yet managed to coincide with this pattern.
Baby boom will impact on NQT Shortages
Just now we are at the beginning of the next “mini boom” in the school population with primary schools complaining of shortage of places and particularly NQT mathematics specialists to teach them. This trend has also been exaggerated in certain parts of the country by the effects of immigration. Migrants from Europe are by and large, young and fertile so they are also adding to the birth rate and school population, making good English NQTs very desirable. In the next couple of years this mini tsunami of pupils will reach secondary age and that is where the NQT shortage of maths NQTs and science NQTs will really be a problem.
But it isn’t solely the numbers of pupils and school funding regimes which cause problems for recruitment and retention of teachers. The general state of the economy plays a part too. Education is an expensive business. An average graduate in any discipline will have in excess of £40k debts on graduation, more if they do a master’s or other post graduate course. Graduates with good degrees in science, maths, engineering and MFL are in high demand as the economy picks up and can easily command salaries in the high £30k. Under these circumstances are young people hearing the horror stories of teacher stress or the tongue lashings the profession get from successive education secretaries really going to opt for teaching?
Clearly new routes into to teaching are needed?
This situation is set to get worse with the number of teachers leaving teaching at a ten year high combined with a drop in applications for initial teacher training. This year there has been a fall of 30,000 applications for places across all programmes. The Teach Direct, approach which offers places to learn to teach within schools, has also failed to fill all the places on offer for this year. Even golden “hellos” and generous bursaries for training has failed to attract enough NQT mathematics specialists into the profession, so a new idea had to be developed, and there has!
Move over, NQT mathematics specialists and welcome in “Mathematics Chairs”. George Osborne has waded into the NQT shortage and has set up a scheme where people with PhDs in maths and physics may be offered starting salaries of £40k to become teachers, displacing NQT mathematics specialists. These places are co-sponsored by industry and will offer on the job training for these elite specialists.
As one teacher said to me recently, teaching isn’t about the money it comes from a desire to help people learn. While we need more NQT mathematics specialists we certainly need more people who want to teach and see it as a vocation. NQT mathematics teachers could learn a lot from that.