Fears of weak job market leads to unprecedented rush to sign up by graduates
Last modified on Thu 30 Jul 2020 23.37 EDT
Fears of a faltering jobs market has sparked an unprecedented rush of people signing up to become teachers, which could wipe out England’s deficit in classroom staff for the first time in eight years.
Figures released by Ucas, the university admissions network, showed more than 21,000 graduates had applied to teacher training programmes since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, a rise of 65% on the last five years.
From mid-June until mid-July alone, the rate of applications raced up by 91% compared with 2019. Most of the growth since lockdown has come from female applicants.
The Education Policy Institute forecasts that applications will continue to rise until course deadlines close in September, with an extra 11,000 trainee teachers likely to sign up.
“The pandemic has caused unparalleled disruption to every area of education. However, there appears to be a silver lining in the form of a big boost to the teaching profession in England. These trends are welcome, given the government has fallen short of its recruitment targets for a number of years,” said Joshua Fullard, senior researcher at the EPI.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary for England, said: “Teaching has always been an attractive career, but it’s good to see a continued surge in the number of people looking to enter the classroom.”
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said trainees who qualified during the lockdown were struggling to find positions for the next school year, as turnover is lower among current teachers.
“Losing these teachers will be a significant cost to the taxpayer, which is why the NEU is calling on government to follow the example of Scotland by centrally employing newly qualified teachers from this September, so that the needs of schools are met and talent is not wasted,” Ellis said.
Other data released by the DfE showed that the diversity of teachers had improved in secondary schools, where 16% of all teachers are from minority ethnic backgrounds, in line with the overall population, for the first time.
“This is a positive development, but these trends could be affected by the oncoming recession. The previous financial crisis resulted in a decrease in the diversity of the teaching profession, and there are early indications that this is transpiring again,” said Fullard.
In primary schools, 10.6% of teachers are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 8.5% in 2010. Only 14% of primary school teachers are male, while the proportion of secondary school teachers who are male has fallen from 37.7% in 2010 to 35.5%.
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