With the number of students entering into education on the rise, the need for skilled teaching staff is more important than ever. However, it seems that the retention rate of new teachers has taken a hit with only 67% of students are making the decision to maintain the profession five years after completing their training . When you filter this down to the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) alone this decline is even more pronounced, with a report from the Education Policy Institute placing this five-year retention rate at just 50% for these subjects. Taking this a step further, of all the topics that fall under the umbrella of STEM, computing comes out on top as the hardest to recruit for with only 66% of vacancies being filled in 2017.
In recognition of this decline, the government has been offering incentives hoping to draw graduates into teaching, for example alongside the core sciences, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Computing trainees can apply for £26,000 tax-free bursaries. However, the flaw with having encouragement upfront is that trainees in shortage subjects are prepared to complete their training, using the money to pay off their debts without any plans to go into the profession full time.
As things stand, schools are left to try and cope with the current availability. In many cases, this means having to rely on more creative staffing approaches, where non-specialist teachers are put in charge of teaching shortage subjects alongside a small number of specialised individuals. As you would expect this will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect, as much like adding water into a solution to reduce its potency, the use of unspecialised staff to teach subjects that often require specific knowledge will water down the expertise of students as they make their way through the education system.