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Class sizes rise as teacher shortage bites

12 September 2018

The teacher shortage is leading to rising class sizes. Photo Kzenon/shutterstock.com.

England's schools are facing a severe shortage of teachers, with bigger class sizes and more subjects taught by staff without a relevant degree, says a new report from the Education Policy Institute. 

It’s yet more evidence that government policies are affecting the nations’ children, storing up massive problems for the future, as education continues to suffer from the starvation of funds represented by “austerity”.

The report from the think tank, published in August, warns that cuts in school budgets, together with recruitment problems, have led to growing class sizes since 2010. 

It also highlights a wealth gap in access to suitably qualified staff, citing Portsmouth and Newham as particular “geographical cold spots”, where schools are rated as least likely to have teachers in shortage subjects with a relevant degree.

More pupils

Teacher numbers have remained the same since 2010 – and actually declined by 5,000 last year – despite a 10 per cent rise in pupil numbers (largely as a result of immigration, though the report does not address this issue). From 2010 until this September, years of government-imposed pay freezes and caps have meant that teacher pay has decreased in real terms by 10 per cent. This year’s better pay award is only for some teachers, leaving more specialised and senior staff hardly better off.

With worsening relative pay, overcrowded classrooms, and heavy workloads driven by endless government changes, teaching is looking less and less attractive for students considering the general jobs market – especially for those with highly desirable qualifications. 

Teacher training applications are down by 5 per cent overall since 2010, while targets for maths and science graduates have been missed year on year. 

And those who do train often don’t stay very long. Only 60 per cent of state school teachers are still teaching after five years in the job (and only 50 per cent in high-priority subjects such as physics and maths).