How Many Teachers Do We Need?

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Has the DfE got its head in the sand? And does anyone know what they are doing?

Rocketing Vacancies!

Teacher vacancies have rocketed, with more and more teachers employed without a degree in their subject and more and more leaving the classroom altogether, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Cutbacks and changes to teacher training make sourcing new teachers increasingly complicated.

Meanwhile it’s all too easy for education ministers to believe there is no recruitment crisis when government officials say it is extremely hard to predict the right number of teachers needed each year. But let me tell you what it’s like recruiting and retaining teachers on the ground; even in a capital city full of millions of people.

There is a crisis in recruitment, not helped by low pay, the tangled and defragmented employment process and the Department of Education massaging the figures. And there’s no sign that this shortage will improve!


At least two or three times a week, I negotiate with supply agencies, bartering daily rates and buy-out fees to employ support and teaching staff. Over the past 18 months, we tracked data from more than 25 agencies to gain an overview of buy-out fees, contracts and clauses to ensure best value.

It transpires that supply agencies are mass-purchasing groups of newly qualified teachers and taking them straight out of the interview circuit to keep them on their books (for a profit). They are also interviewing teachers from overseas en-masse to farm teachers out to schools in areas most in need.

This is useful if you head up a multi-academy trust in need of many teachers, or you lead a supply agency, but for standalone schools the teachers who used to be on the market are quickly dissipating and our recruitment hopes are dashed from the outset.

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Image: Shutterstock

Continue …

What does this research show about the situation? To read my full article, click the image below.

Schools Week Recruitment

This is a preview. Click the image to view the full article.


This is my fifth published article for @SchoolsWeek, a weekly newspaper covering all schools. Schools Week is a printed and online weekly newspaper covering the schools sector in England; aimed at those with a broad interest in education policy and finance, typically aspiring, middle/senior managers, leaders and governors across all schools.

My Schools Week profile and past articles are here; you can subscribe to read their articles first!


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2 thoughts on “How Many Teachers Do We Need?

  1. When I started in the profession (1969!) the path was clear. You did your probationary and worked and if you were successful you climbed the scales. Now it is much more complicated. From a supply teacher point of view we do not seem to see the recruitment crisis, one of the reasons being that schools do not want to pay the going rate for replacements. I meet young teachers doing supply for 2 or 3 days a week looking for a post. I know of a school that is “delivering” Construction to Y13 level, but refused to appoint an experienced teacher in the field, instead appointing an NQT and as a result cannot satisfactorily deliver the subject at this level. Also where there is a need for a specialist teacher the timetable is split amongst non-specialists. I was asked to teach Y9 DT Cooking, and whereas I was quite happy to teach the theory I refused to handle the practical on grounds of health and safety. Also, again from a supply teacher point of view in the secondary sector, schools are missing out by not employing general teachers. The pressure of ofsted means, quite rightly the desire to employ specialists. However when they can’t they then have to rely on non-specialist/supply, whereas if they had a general teacher on the staff they could fill the gaps and allow specialists to concentrate on their subjects. I would be quite happy to be in a school to fill in gaps in music, drama, english, maths, humanities and if CPD was available, science and DT, but no-one seems to be willing to do this.
    The opinion on whether there is a crisis will depend on whether you are a bean counter or an educator

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for your comment – all very valid. I guess much depends on the needs of the school; the expertise of the panel appointing (or not) and the skill-set offered by applicants. Agencies do tend to pull the wool over applicants and not pay them accordingly; this is evident in the research I can see. Fundamentally, regardless of cost, schools should be wanting to place the right person in front of students. Sadly, this is not always possible and then throws up the issue of ‘beans vs. educating’.

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