This report referred to in this article, featured last month on the BBC news website (http://bbc.in/1KYhR39), highlights what has been apparent for some time; the chronic shortage of new teacher training recruits which, combined with a projected increase in pupil numbers at secondary school level, risks increasing the already heavy burden on the UK school system. One likely result of this increase would be a general drop in teaching standards and a concomitant decrease in pupil performance and parents’ satisfaction with the standard of education their children are receiving.
Though this is being felt most keenly in terms of numbers in London, the effect is even more pronounced outside the capital, with Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School in Hertfordshire for example advertising and failing to recruit a new head of mathematics 3 times in the last year.
The report states that while urban centres have comparatively greater funds with which to recruit and pay new teacher trainees, rural or semi-rural areas, such as schools in the county of Norfolk, face even greater difficulty due to the fewer financial and social opportunities they are able to offer prospective teacher trainees.
The figures for teacher training recruits last year (2014-15) indicate that there were 7% fewer teacher training recruits than required. This, combined with a predicted 20% increase in secondary school pupil numbers by 2024 indicates that the crisis only threatens to become more entrenched.
The short-term effects are already being felt, with larger class sizes, and teachers being asked to teach non-specialist subjects, in addition to an increasing reliance on supply teachers and teaching recruitment agencies, who have reported an unprecedented increase in demand for their services.
The longer-term effects could be that the core subjects of English, mathematics and the sciences suffer a decline in quality due to being taught by unqualified and inexperienced staff, with other subjects such as art and modern languages being removed from the curriculum entirely.
The benefits of private tuition then become more apparent and the attractiveness of having focused attention on a student for a particular subject, taught by someone with an extremely high level of competency in that subject and often a comparable or greater level of experience than a new teaching recruit, is something that is likely to become an even greater feature of the UK educational landscape.
The ideal scenario however would be one in which private tuition offers a reinforcement of what pupils are being taught in schools, with the various ancillary benefits that come from a one-to-one teaching environment with a highly-qualified teaching professional. Instead, there is a real risk that private tuition may be sought more and more by parents who are seeking to make up for the deficiencies that are becoming increasingly apparent within the mainstream education system; this is a scenario that would benefit neither tuition service providers, nor pupils nor indeed anyone else in the long run.