Sheffield schools have ‘huge crisis’ in teacher recruitment, union chief warns

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Sheffield schools are facing a ‘huge crisis’ in recruiting teachers, a union chief has warned after their plight was raised in Parliament.

Heeley MP Louise Haigh called for an urgent debate after telling the Commons it was ‘not unusual’ for Sheffield schools to receive no applications after they had advertised for science and maths teachers.

She had visited Newfield School in Norton, which was left without a permanent science teacher for one term last year after it did not receive any suitable applications although the position has now been filled.

But Toby Mallinson, secretary of Sheffield’s National Union of Teachers branch, said ‘many schools’ would not have all teaching posts filled for the new academic year in September.

He added: “There is a huge crisis at the moment and it is certain to get worse, particularly in shortage subjects like science but also in primary schools.

“It is worse in areas of disadvantage because the schools have such unreasonable targets to meet – there is the pressure of 60 hour weeks and people coming around with clipboards saying they are not doing their job properly.

“Someone needs to do some research on how many teachers are leaving the profession because I know there are bucket loads.”

The lack of physics graduates going into teaching is said to be a particularly acute problem.

Newfield headteacher Tim Eldridge said: “Like many schools across the country we are finding that teacher recruitment is becoming harder for a number of reasons – a fall in the number of graduates as a result of higher university tuition fees, an increase in the number of secondary-age children which means more teachers will be needed and the economic upturn which is creating greater competition to recruit the pool of graduates.

“Headteacher colleagues in other schools report the same problem across a range of subjects.

“Fortunately for Newfield, as the school continues to improve rapidly and our reputation grows, we are able to attract a larger number of applicants to choose from, and I am pleased to report that we are fully staffed now and will be in September.

“However, recruitment continues to be an issue in shortage subjects such as maths and science.

“At Newfield we had a science vacancy at the beginning of the year that took several rounds of recruitment to fill because of a lack of suitable applicants.

“We are determined to only recruit high quality teachers and eventually we were able to appoint a strong candidate.

“However, this did mean that we had to temporarily fill the vacancy with a temporary supply teacher.”

The school had also combined resources with King Ecgbert School in Dore as part of the Mercia Learning Trust when recruiting maths teachers to attract more candidates and make the process more efficient.

Miss Haigh asked for an urgent debate on the impact of the Government’s education policy on teacher recruitment in her first question in the Commons.

She told The Star: “There is a real crisis in school recruitment across the country – but I think science and maths are a particular problem for Sheffield.

“I think the most deprived areas particularly struggle because if you are a teacher in demand you are going to go to a less deprived school.”

Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, replied he was ‘proud’ of what the Government had done to encourage growth and development of sciences and the budget had been protected despite public spending cuts.

He added: “Teach First offers an opportunity to get smart people into deprived areas to provide high quality teaching, and we will continue with that policy.”