UK/ 27 July 2020/ Source/ https://www.bbc.com/news
More people are applying to train as teachers as they reconsider careers in lockdown, researchers have said.
In recent years numbers training to become secondary school teachers in Wales have fallen, with some schools struggling to fill posts.
But figures from the higher education admissions service Ucas show numbers applying increased during the pandemic.
Jack Worth, of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER,) said it was seen as a stable career by many.
A report said Welsh schools were facing a “substantial and growing challenge” attracting teachers to roles before the pandemic.
But as of 15 June, 2,350 applications had been made for teacher training courses in Wales, a 6.8% rise compared to the same period last year, Ucas figures show.
Numbers applying for training to become secondary school teachers have increased by 19% this year.
While not all those who apply may go on to train to teach in Wales, with individuals able to submit multiple applications, the NFER said it was “likely to lead” to an increase in trainees.
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Mr Worth said with many industries struggling during lockdown and fewer opportunities, people were being attracted to teaching as a career choice.
“I think that recent graduates may have had a range of options, but now some of those have dried up, and teaching is now more of a front runner,” he said.
“There’s always pupils there to teach, so it’s kind of recession proof.
“In a relatively strong labour market, there are increasing difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers, but during Covid, and post Covid we are in a different world.”
Unions and experts have warned of a crisis facing schools, with too few new teachers qualifying and many leaving the profession in recent years.
Welsh Government targets for recruiting trainee teachers have been missed every year between 2014 and 2018.
Initial Teacher Education Training in Wales
The NFER report, which examined data prior to the effects of the lockdown, points to serious shortages of secondary school teachers in subjects including maths, foreign languages, and sciences.
But it says numbers applying for initial teacher training for normally popular subjects, including English and Geography, had fallen below half the target in 2018-2019.
The report states that 6.5% of high school teaching posts were vacant in 2018-2019, up from 5.2% in 2010-2011, with some subjects getting fewer than 10 applications for a job in 2018-2019.
Mr Worth said: “With pupil numbers projected to increase over the next five years, a continued decline in teacher numbers could lead to increasing pupil-teacher ratios, and potentially teacher shortages.”
He said with schools in rural and deprived areas struggling to fill vacancies, a targeted approach to attract and retain high-quality teachers was needed.
“Unless these disparities are alleviated, existing inequalities in educational outcomes between students from different backgrounds may worsen,” he said.
The report says:
- The number of trainees recruited to secondary school initial training has fallen steadily between 2010-2011 and 2018-2019
- The proportion of teachers leaving for other careers increased from 11% in 2009-2010 to 30% in 2018-2019
- Adverts for history, science, maths, Welsh and geography jobs on average got fewer than 10 applicants in 2018-2019
- On average 8% of vacancies in north and west Wales were unfilled between 2009-2010 and 2018-2019, double that in south and mid Wales
- Central south Wales has the highest proportion of unfilled vacancies despite receiving the most applicants per vacancy.
The Welsh Government aims to have 5,300 Welsh medium teachers by 2021.
But Welsh medium schools had the worst recruitment rates, with an average of four applicants per secondary school post, and eight for primary posts.
And with the numbers applying to train to teach in Welsh falling between 2011-2012 and 2018-2019, Mr Worth said it would appear it was “struggling to deliver” this.