A Closer Look at the Current UK Teacher Shortage


The UK has had an ongoing teacher shortage for years now, though the severity of the issue varies depending on where you are in the country. Many solutions are being tabled, however, and current events seem to be having a surprising effect on enrolment numbers.

Let’s take a closer look at the current state of the British education system, and the shortages that have been plaguing it. We’ll then discuss some of the factors contributing to the teacher shortfall before we share a number of potential solutions suggested by the data. We’ll also look at how the coronavirus crisis has affected the teacher shortage.

The State of the British Education System

While the number of students in the UK has remained constant over the years, the number of teachers in the UK fell by 7%. Matters will only be made worse by the population bulge hitting secondary schools. The number of secondary students is expected to rise by 10% between now and 2023.

Not only that, but it has been estimated that roughly 1 in 5 teachers leave within two years, and 40% within 5 years. This means that we are losing many of the new teachers that are coming in. Teacher exit rates are also higher in shortage areas. This includes maths, science and foreign languages. Up to half of these teachers leave within 5 years, but we’re also seeing shortages in normally popular subjects like English and Geography.

Teachers Need Better Pay

Studies show that many teachers leaving are heading to non-teaching jobs that pay more. This suggests that we could reduce turnover by increasing pay. This is especially true for maths and science teachers who can earn much more in professional jobs.

Schools filled with disadvantaged students have trouble recruiting and keeping teachers. This issue is more severe for maths and science teachers. One solution is taking advantage of the Pupil Premium. London schools take advantage of that program, paying teachers in shortage subjects about £1500 more. This has helped them to secure more teachers, and more importantly, more qualified teachers in shortage subjects. This will also reduce the risk of early career teachers leaving.

Support New Applicants Eager to Gain a Steady Job

The coronavirus crisis and related government-mandated shutdowns have left millions out of work, while millions more are afraid of losing their jobs. However, one of the unexpected effects of the recent global pandemic is that it seems to have revived interest in the profession.

As a matter of fact, we saw the number of teacher training applications rise during the lockdowns, and it has been estimated that the coronavirus may reduce shortages by as much as 40%. Places like Wales have seen rises of up to 6.8% in applications compared to the same date last year, which is encouraging as it is one of the regions most affected by shortages.

Online degrees also offer a glimmer of hope to meet demand. Students can now earn a master’s in education distance learning without having to visit campus and get a degree from a globally recognised program. This is essential because many schools are pulling out of offers to teach future teachers because of the coronavirus itself. The virus has put incredible pressure on faculty, who now have to deal with the very real reality of teaching staff falling ill and sick students falling behind.

Other programs are dropping trainees because they’re afraid that those who enter the profession during times of uncertainty are much more likely than average to leave when the economy turns around. Fortunately, the same economic uncertainty is improving teacher retention for the time being. However, we still need to take steps to keep them in the classroom after the crisis is over.

Protect Teachers

Teachers don’t just leave because they can earn more money elsewhere. Teachers may leave because of violence in the classroom or an excessive workload. Schools, however, are taking steps to ensure that a teacher’s workload is manageable when schools reopen. This has been an ongoing issue since the teacher shortage contributes to an increasing student-teacher ratio. Furthermore, schools are also taking steps to protect the health of teachers in the classroom.

While there is some hope, teacher shortages should not only continue to be an issue in the UK but most countries in the G7. This should definitely serve as a warning to everyone, and push societies to re-evaluate how they treat and train the teachers of tomorrow.

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