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by Jamie Cater 20th July, 2015

Is the teacher shortage exacerbated by limited pay?

George Osborne’s Budget almost a fortnight ago confirmed, to the chagrin of many employees and trade unions, that public sector pay rises would be limited to 1% annually over the next four years. Amid the excitement over the introduction of the National Living Wage, with newspaper headlines excitedly proclaiming that Britain was getting a pay rise thanks to the Chancellor’s adaptation of his opponents’ policy, the news must have jarred even more with those who have had to make do with small increases in their salary in recent years.

This is of particular concern in schools, where there is growing fear of a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. The government’s own figures show a drop in the number of postgraduates on initial teacher training courses, as well as statistics published last week by the Department for Education indicating that we currently have the highest number of teaching vacancies for over a decade. At a time when schools are being warned over the increase in the population of school-age children, it is unsurprising that many in the education sector are apprehensive about the impact of further pay restraint on teaching. Ofsted, as well as the teaching unions, have warned the government in recent months that the current trends in recruitment are unsustainable.

Despite the government’s commitment earlier in the year to award a 2% increase to some teachers – which will still go ahead following Osborne’s announcement – the incentives for graduates to enter teaching full-time often appear exiguous, and the latest limits on public sector pay are likely to do little to attract more people to the profession. While this is good news for recruitment agencies, upon whom schools will become increasingly dependent as current trends continue, the pressure will grow on the government to consider a change of tack. Nicky Morgan has undoubtedly adopted a more emollient tone towards teachers than her predecessor as Education Secretary, Michael Gove, but the profession remains demoralised and unsatisfied with the progress on initiatives such as the Workload Challenge.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb argued in a speech earlier this month that there was ‘no crisis’ in teacher recruitment and retention, and Morgan echoed this sentiment in the House of Commons this afternoon as she and her Ministers took questions from MPs. With falling numbers of new teachers and increasing numbers of new pupils, it is unclear for how long the government can maintain such a position.

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