The lack of new teachers joining the profession is compounding fears that schools in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are heading for ‘a perfect storm’ with the number of students vastly outweighing qualified staff to teach them.
Thousands of teaching say they are planning on quitting the profession in 2016 and 2017, according to a YouGov poll, citing excessive workloads and plummeting morale.
But research produced by university admissions organisation UCAS has revealed a massive shortfall in the number of people enrolling on initial teacher training - particularly in core subjects.
The figures relate to all courses due to finish at the end of the 2016 academic year and reveal that in some instances more than 50 per cent of places have gone unfilled.
For modern foreign languages, only 810 places were filled – just 54 per cent of the 1,514 trainees needed, according to the Government.
Meanwhile, just 43 per cent of the 1,279 places needed in design and technology were filled, with just 550 people recruited.
Maths reached 95 per cent of the required number of trainees, with 2,460 recruits, but maths trainee can get up to £25,000 in bursaries, compared to as little as £4,000 for aspiring teachers of non-shortage subjects such as PE and History.
The same incentives apply to physics places, but just 770 people were recruited – significantly lower than the 1,055 needed.
Figures for this year are not yet available, but from information provided on the UCAS website, all teacher-training providers in the East Midlands still have large numbers of places available.
With maths, of the 60-plus schools and universities trying to attract trainee teachers to start in September, just one institution was stating that it had filled all of its available places, while all still have physics places available.
With English, just three training providers are currently reporting that they have no vacancies remaining, while all still have places available in design and technology.
Meanwhile, just one provider still has places available for applicants wanting to train as PE teachers, while UCAS says that traditionally popular subjects such as drama and history are ‘filling up’.
However, the crisis in teacher recruitment centres heavily around the core subjects of maths, science and English, with just 90 of the 220-plus vacancies currently being advertised on teacher recruitment websites needing teachers of other subjects.
Of these, just one vacancy to teach PE is currently available in schools in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and two vacancies to teach drama.
Mark Cottingham (pictured), principal at Shirebrook Academy, is involved on training teachers at the school and previously taught PGCE students at university.
He said that part of the reason that so many teachers drop out of the industry within five years is because they have made the wrong career choice.
But he added that the pressures teachers face from government bureaucracy and demands is also contributing to the problem.
“The best thing about being a teacher is that every day is different and it’s great fun working with young people,” he said. “They frustrate you sometimes, but they also amaze you with their enthusiasm and generosity. You are helping them to shape their futures, and there’s no better way to spend your working life than that.
“But teaching is a Marmite profession - you will either love it or hate it - and if you enjoy the spontaneity of young people then there is no better way to spend your working life. But if you want your working life to be predictable then it’s not for you because you’re not in control of your day.
“You need to be able to see the positives in everything, and that includes the kids that are difficult - because they are not difficult all of the time. Sometimes they’re lovely.
“It’s when that kid turns it around, when they apologise and put things right that it’s amazing.
“They are young people and they are learning and they are going to make mistakes and get things wrong.
“The first thing I ask anyone who says they want to teach is ‘Why do you want to be a teacher?’
“Many people who come into it think that they were good at school and enjoyed school, so they think they will become a teacher.
“But the problem is that a lot of kids don’t enjoy school and don’t find it easy and they are the ones that you’ve got to reach.
“You have got to have commitment to the kids in front of you. They are very quick at seeing through people who are not genuine. If they think you’re not interested in them then they will make your life very difficult.”
From a survey of teaching positions currently being advertised directly on school websites around North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire, all but a handful were for teachers of English, maths and science.
Fiona Shelton, Head of Teacher Training at the University of Derby, said: “Many years ago, training to be a teacher meant you undertook an undergraduate programme, usually a BEd or BA (Hons) with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), or students completed a PGCE course once they had attained a degree.
“However, today there are many routes to qualified teacher status; the traditional undergraduate programmes, university-led PGCEs, schools-led primary and secondary programmes leading to QTS. You can also gain QTS through the assessment-only route which allows teachers to demonstrate that they already meet all the QTS standards without the need for any further training.
“We know from talking to students and from our Open Days at the University that there is a lot of confusion about which route to take as students become more knowledgeable about the different routes.
“We see the benefits of both the university-led and school-led route – both require excellent partnerships and both bring different riches to those choosing to train to be teachers. The secret is working collaboratively and maintaining the highest possible standards so that those joining the profession qualify being the best teachers they can be.
“At the University of Derby, applications for both PGCE and BEd courses are really buoyant. We get consistently high numbers of students wanting to come to us due to our reputation for quality and were recently rated Outstanding by Ofsted for our Education provision.
“We offer both school-led and university-led initial teacher education and although the Government’s emphasis has increased in terms of the school-led provision, we find that our campus-based courses fill up faster and are very popular with students.
“The calibre of students coming to Derby is getting better each year and this reflects in our employability statistics with 100% of our BEd students in work (or further study) six months after graduation. We know that employers value our newly qualified teachers and former trainees very highly, and our PGCE course has 100 per cent student satisfaction.”