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UK: Teacher shortages are due to ‘leaky pipe’ in the profession

Students are suffering from a teacher shortage due to 'leaky pipe'. Source: Shutterstock.com

The teacher not showing up to class used to be a reason to celebrate. A whole hour of chatting with your friends, throwing paper balls across the room and you didn’t even get homework set at the end of class… heaven!

But now, in the United Kingdom, it is often not a case of teachers not showing up for class simply because they went home sick or got caught up with a troublemaker. Instead, it is because there are not enough teachers to teach all the country’s students.

Due to a ‘leaky pipe’ of teachers, there are too many people leaving the profession and not enough young people choosing to join it, meaning there is a distinct shortage of teachers.

Low wages, heavy workloads and poor pension schemes are the root causes for the lack of teachers choosing to join the profession, reports the East Anglian Daily Times.

Anna Richards, executive leader of Suffolk and Norfolk School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), said the number of teachers departing the profession is “frighteningly” high and said there has been a “slight” fall in primary and secondary teacher training course applications for September 2018.

Richards said ‘bad press’ was to blame for the lack of enthusiasm for teaching, and while there are challenges such as late nights of marking and planning, there is the benefit of helping a child to learn.

Margaret Bulaitis, secretary of the Ipswich branch of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “It is so worrying that teachers, especially young ones, are leaving the profession at an ever-increasing rate. However, it comes as no surprise when workload has become unmanageable and we are under constant scrutiny.

“Teachers in the UK are now the most micromanaged in Europe. All of this has a cumulative detrimental effect on morale and well-being.”

Scotland has also been hit by the teacher shortage, as university students have had to start teaching high school maths, according to the BBC.

Two groups of students at Trinity Academy, Edinburgh are being taught by non-maths teachers with university students on hand as assistants. This initiative was prompted after two maths teacher posts failed to be filled before September.

“We have known about teacher shortages for some time but the government refuses to acknowledge the crisis. Schools are desperate to recruit and retain teaching staff but there are simply not enough qualified teachers for the increased pupil numbers,” Graham White of the Suffolk NEU told the East Anglian Daily Times.

“If the government is to rectify this crisis, it needs to avoid its usual sticking plaster approach and address the key issues of pay, pensions and workload, and enable teachers to feel valued and their professionalism to be recognised.”

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