Teacher training

DfE misses secondary teacher recruitment target as Covid boom crashes

Just 22 per cent of physics teachers needed were recruited this year

Just 22 per cent of physics teachers needed were recruited this year

The government has missed its recruitment target for new secondary school teachers, with less than a quarter of the number of physics teachers needed taken on this year.

The Department for Education has published data on entries to initial teacher training in September of this year.

Although it just met its overall recruitment target for primary and secondary by 101 per cent, a decrease from 111 per cent last year, it only recruited 82 per cent of the secondary teachers needed.

The failure to meet targets follows the government’s decision to slash some teacher training bursaries by as much as 73 per cent for the 2021-22 academic year.

It follows warnings that a boost in recruitment as a result of the pandemic which saw trainee numbers swell by 23 per cent last year would be shortlived.

The DfE said its poorer performance against its targets overall was driven “largely” by a decrease of 3,161 in the number of new entrants, against a “slight increase” of 78 trainees to the target compared to 2020-21.

Entries down 8% year-on-year

The government has also changed the way it comes up with targets this year, taking into account under-recruitment in previous years.

Analysis by Jack Worth at the National Foundation for Educational Research shows this resulted in an 89 per cent increase in the Physics target, and a 61 per cent increase for design and technology.

The outlook on actual recruitment numbers is more positive. There were 37,069 new entrants to ITT, down 8 per cent compared to 2020, but still 10 per cent higher than 2019 – pre-Covid.

But the figure of 82 per cent for secondary teachers is down from 103 per cent last year, and is still lower than the proportion recruited in pre-Covid 2019.

The overall recruitment figure is inflated by primary entries, which have remained high for several years. This year, the government achieved 136 per cent of its target for primary, meaning the target has been exceeded for four out of the last five years.

The government also failed to reach both its target for EBacc subjects, achieving 88 per cent, down from 101 per cent. Recruitment in non-EBacc subjects was only at 70 per cent.


Recruitment in some subjects was at less than a quarter of the government’s target.

Physics recruitment lowest on record

In physics, just 22 per cent of the necessary teachers were recruited, down from 45 per cent in 2020. This is the lowest level on record.

The number of new physics entrants actually rose between 2020 and 2021, but the recruitment target increased between the two years.

Physics was one of the subjects for which the ITT bursary was cut this year, from £26,000 to £24,000.

The government also missed its own targets for other EBacc subjects computing (69 per cent), modern foreign languages (71 per cent), geography (86 per cent) and maths (95 per cent).

The target was exceeded for history (199 per cent), English (118 per cent), biology (117 per cent), chemistry (105 per cent) and Classics (143 per cent).

Among non-EBacc subjects, the target was missed in design and technology (23 per cent, compared to 75 per cent last year). The D&T training bursary was scrapped entirely in 2021.

Targets were also missed in business studies (45 per cent), music (72 per cent) and religious education (99 per cent).

They were met in art and design (140 per cent), drama (157 per cent) and physical education (164 per cent).

Ministers must look ‘seriously’ at recruitment and retention

Worth tweeted the recruitment numbers are a “clear sign that the system is facing considerable teacher supply challenges once again”.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the meeting of targets in 2020 “turns out to have been just a pandemic effect”.

“It is hard to see how the numbers will rally as the economy recovers from Covid, if not simply irrational to believe that an inflexible government clinging to the same education and economic policies will suddenly inspire a wave of new recruits to teaching,” he added.

Kevin Courtney

James Zuccollo, director for school workforce at the Education Policy Institute, said the speed of national recovery and the improvement of the labour market had meant the drop-off in teacher recruitment “has occurred much more suddenly than expected”.

He said shortages remained in some subjects, and that increasing teachers’ starting salaries “remains the most promising approach to quickly improving this outlook”.

However, he said a Covid-related improvement in teacher retention had been “sustained … this may give the government a window of opportunity to act, to keep hold of these existing teachers before they consider other professions as the economy continues to improve.

“Policies that provide financial incentives to those who entered the teaching profession during the pandemic will therefore be essential to preventing an exodus.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was “encouraging to see the number of new entrants to teacher training continue to rise compared to pre-pandemic levels”.

“We are investing millions in bursaries and salary boosts for high-demand subjects to keep teaching a competitive graduate profession. We are also driving up standards in initial teacher training and funding thousands of world-class training opportunities for teachers.”

More from this theme

Teacher training

Unis piloting iQTS scheme fail teacher training re-accreditation

Three of six higher education institutions taking part in iQTS pilot did not get through in the first round...

Samantha Booth
Teacher training

Walker: Academies reforms could help schools keep STEM teachers

Minister says white paper plans will offer 'greater career progression' for teachers

Samantha Booth
Teacher training

New chartered status for school-based teacher mentors

Teachers who also mentor school staff will be able to gain chartered status from next academic year, the Chartered...

Samantha Booth
Teacher training

Top-grade uni among victims in savage first ITT review round

Snub ‘perplexes’ first university to get new Ofsted ‘outstanding’ as others recently rated 'good' also left out

Freddie Whittaker
Teacher training

Ambition wants £750k damages over ‘unlawful’ Institute of Teaching snub

Schools Week can also reveal the DfE is challenging an injunction to name the winning bid, as court documents...

John Dickens
Teacher training

Just 1 in 3 teacher trainers re-accredited after first review round

DfE says it now may run further application rounds after minority make the cut in ITT reform process

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.