Recruitment and retention

DfE slashes secondary teacher recruitment targets

The government missed its targets for both primary and secondary last year

The government missed its targets for both primary and secondary last year

The Department for Education has slashed its secondary school teacher recruitment targets by almost a tenth, despite missing them by 50 per cent last year.

Government sets targets annually against which recruitment is assessed. Today’s figures show that the government believes it needs to recruit 23,955 to postgraduate teacher training in September, down 2,405, or 9.1 per cent, on its target for 2023.

The DfE said the decrease was “driven by more favourable supply forecasts”.

“For example, recruitment forecasts for both returners, and teachers that are new to the state-funded sector are more favourable for almost all subjects this year.”

It added that while “secondary pupil numbers are still growing, they are now growing more slowly; in advance of peaking around 2025-26”.

“This has acted to reduce the rate at which the workforce needs to grow and has helped lead to this year’s lower secondary target. “

Meanwhile, the primary target has been revised up by 2.4 per cent from 9,180 to 9,400, despite falling primary pupil numbers nationally.

Paul Whiteman
Paul Whiteman

“This slightly increased primary target, despite falling pupil numbers, is principally a result of less favourable retention forecasts this year,” the DfE summary adds.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said it was “astonishing that the government is cutting its secondary school teacher training targets, at a time when schools are in the grip of a spiralling recruitment and retention crisis”.

“Far from lowering ambitions for future recruitment, the government’s response should be to properly address the key issues that are fuelling this crisis, including years of real-terms pay and funding cuts, and the intolerable pressures caused by Ofsted inspections and unsustainable levels of workload.”

An attempt to make recruitment figures better?

Just 17 per cent of the required physics teachers were recruited last year, but the DfE has reduced the target for this September by over 20 per cent.

The DfE said targets “reflect changes in both supply and demand; different drivers may act upon targets for different subjects”.

“For example, more favourable physics teacher retention forecasts this year have acted to reduce the physics target. By contrast, less favourable drama ITT recruitment has acted to increase this year’s drama target.”

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, said the decision to reduce targets “whatever the technical explanation, will be regarded with suspicion as it obviously looks like an attempt to make the recruitment figures look better”.

“This perception will be reinforced by the fact that some of the adjustments downwards are in key shortage subjects including physics and modern foreign languages.”

Targets for under-recruiting subjects slashed

In business studies, where just 16 per cent of the recruitment target was met last year, the target is increasing by just 0.4 per cent.

Last year, the design and technology teacher recruitment target was missed by 63 per cent. But the government is reducing the target by almost 26 per cent next year.

The government recruited just 56 per cent of the geography teachers needed in 2023. The target for that subject has now been reduced by over 36 per cent.

Last year, the government recruited 50 per cent of the secondary teachers needed and 91 per cent of the required primary teachers. Overall across both phases, the target was missed by 38 per cent.

The overall trainee target for postgraduate ITT in 2024 is 33,355 — a 6.1 per cent decrease on the year before.

The 2024-2025 target for postgradutate ITT secondary STEM  trainees has also decreased by 210 compared to the previous academic year, from 9,195 to 8,985, a 2.3 per cent change.

Targets by phase and subject

Art & Design5805308251,095
Business Studies7256351,1951,200
Design & Technology1,4751,8252,1101,565
Modern Languages1,5052,1402,9602,540
Physical Education1,010980735625
Religious Education470450655580

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One comment

  1. I just don’t understand what schools the DFE are looking at. There are huge recruitment issues with teachers. If you can get anyone at all to apply, they may not be to the standards I would have seen 5 years ago. In terms of leadership roles, the pool is even smaller.