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Teacher shortages 'worsening' in key subjects, warn MPs

MPs want urgent action, including more focus on retaining teachers Credit: PA

Ministers are failing to address a damaging shortage of teachers in England's schools, MPs have warned.

The government has consistently missed teacher recruitment targets and the shortage is particularly acute for subjects such as physics and maths, according to the Commons Education Select Committee.

In a highly critical new report, the committee called for urgent action, including more focus on retaining teachers once they are in the classroom, and suggesting a cap on the number of hours teachers work.

The committee report says that while ministers have recognised there are issues with retaining teaching staff, there is no long-term plan to tackle the problem.

"The government invests a large amount of public money into improving the status of the teaching profession, but there are still major challenges with teacher supply, some of which appear to be worsening," the committee said.

A spokesman for the department for education acknowledged there were "challenges", but said: "There are more teachers in England's schools than ever before with secondary postgraduate recruitment at its highest since 2011.

"We are investing more than £1.3 billion in recruitment over this parliament and have recruited more trainees in key subjects like physics and maths than last year."

The government has consistently missed teacher recruitment targets Credit: PA

Many initial teacher training (ITT) targets have been missed, including in core English Baccalaureate subjects - the subjects ministers say gives teenagers a good academic grounding for the future.

"Recruitment in computing missed the target by the biggest margin of all EBacc subjects, with only 68% of ITT places filled," the report says.

"The proportion of the target for physics trainees recruited was 81%, and for mathematics 84%. Design and technology only reached 41% of its recruitment target this year.

"This raises questions about the government's recruitment strategy."

Part of the problem is seen as the exhausting extra hours teachers find themselves working.

Committee chairman Neil Carmichael, the Tory MP for Stroud, said that issues "such as teacher workload and access to professional development, which can drive teachers away from the classroom and into alternative careers" needed to be addressed.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "This report should act as a wake-up call to ministers that falling back on sticking plaster solutions such as the failed National Teaching Service will do nothing to address the systemic causes of the teacher supply crisis."

Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the government was "failing to deliver on its most basic of tasks".

"Recruitment targets are being missed, school budgets are being cut for the first time in decades and we have thousands more unqualified teachers teaching in our schools," she said, adding that "children deserve better".