Why are secondary school teacher numbers plummeting?

Student numbers and class sizes are growing but teacher numbers are diminishing – and secondary schools seem to be most affected. This article explores the ‘why?’ and shares the insight Ranstad has gleaned as a global HR provider on this issue

The education industry is in the midst of a crisis, with staffing, budget and quality of teaching all becoming more and more compromised. Recent findings from Randstad show that issues such as poor working conditions and lack of resources are leading to a mass exodus of teaching talent. However, the number of secondary school pupils continues to rise.

Staff vs. students in numbers

The number of pupils attending secondary school has increased every year since 2013, with the total number of UK 11 to 18-year olds at school now sitting at 3,223,090. However, this consistent increase is not reflected in teacher numbers, with secondary school staff numbers falling by 10,000 teachers since 2010.

Adding to this worrying trend is the statistic that 34,910 qualified teachers left the profession for reasons other than retirement in 2016. If things continue at this pace there will soon be too many students without the teaching support to give them the education they need.

Why is this happening?

A mix of factors is contributing to this growing issue, but a key one is the lack of support. A survey conducted by the National Audit Office found that a huge 85% of secondary school leaders feel they have inadequate support from the government to assist them in building and maintaining a quality workforce.

This statistic is evidenced by the fact that, last year, £37.5m in government funds was put towards teacher development and retention and £34.2m on improving teaching quality. But, just a few years ago, in 2013/14, these figures were at a much higher £555m, a substantially large difference. This huge cut in government spending is undeniably taking its toll on the education sector.

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With more pupils to handle, and a lack of time and resource, another big factor contributing to the teacher exodus is the workload pressure. More than two thirds (67%) of secondary school leaders cite workload, and the subsequent stress and pressure, as a major reason why teachers choose to leave rather than join the profession.

What does the future of education look like?

The stats and numbers highlight a concerning trend of secondary school teachers leaving the profession. Unless changes are made, and the problem of retention is tackled head on, things will only get worse. Ultimately, there need to be enough teachers for students to be able to learn.

Intriguingly, however, this trend might be isolated, at least in part, to secondary education. Even though secondary school staff numbers fell by 4.9% between November 2010 and November 2016, there was a 13.2% increase in the number of primary and nursery school teachers signing up across the same timeframe.

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