Half of teaching posts filled with unqualified teachers, NAO finds

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

The Telegraph reports that half of teaching posts in the UK were filled with unqualified teachers last year, the government spending watchdog has warned.

A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that secondary schools teachers are leaving the profession in droves, as pupil numbers continue to swell.

Schools only filled half of their vacancies with teachers that had the right experience and expertise last year, and in around one in 10 cases, the post was not filled, according to a survey conducted by the NAO.

Tens of thousands of teachers left England’s schools before reaching retirement age last year, and headteachers are finding it difficult to fill jobs with good quality candidates, the report said.

It concludes that the Department for Education (DfE) cannot show that its attempts to keep teachers in the classroom are having a positive impact and are good value for money.

The study says that almost 35,000 qualified teachers (34,910) left the profession for reasons other than retirement last year.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said that the rise in teacher vacancies was a “risk” for pupils.

“The rise in teacher vacancies in secondary schools nationally is a key risk for pupils, as the Department itself acknowledges,” she said.

“The Department has not yet done enough to understand and act on local variation in teacher supply and quality since the Public Accounts Committee reported on training new teachers last summer. It is still taking too much comfort from national statistics when education is a local issue with local implications.”

The NAO also says that DfE initiatives to support the teaching workforce have been “relatively small scale”, estimating that the Department spent £35.7m in 2016/17 on teacher development and retention, as well as an estimated £34.2m on schemes aimed at improving teacher quality.

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In comparison, in 2013/14 £555m was spent on training and supporting new teachers.

The study did find that more qualified teachers are returning to state schools, with 14,200 heading back into the classroom last year, up 1,110 on 2011.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Schools are facing real challenges in retaining and developing their teachers, with growing pupil numbers and tighter budgets. The trends over time and variation between schools are concerning, and there is a risk that the pressure on teachers will grow.

“Since having enough high-quality teachers is essential to the effective operation of the school system, these are issues that the Department needs to address urgently.”

A DfE spokeswoman said that “significant sums” are being spent on teacher recruitment. “We recognise there are challenges facing schools and we are taking significant steps to address them,” she said.

“We have established a £75m fund to support high-quality professional development in those schools where teacher retention is an issue, and we are making it easier to advertise vacancies.”

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