Teacher shortage in Wales must be addressed

Children throughout Wales returned to the classroom this month, but sadly many of them will not receive the education they need to succeed due to Wales’ worsening teacher recruitment crisis.

The Education Workforce Council warned this summer that schools in Wales face major problems unless teacher shortages are addressed.

It follows their release of figures which show that recruitment to secondary school teacher training courses was more than a third below the target for the second year in a row.

Wales' three teacher training centres recruited 538 students to secondary school teacher training courses, starting in September 2016, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales figures show. This represents a 38% shortfall on the target of filling 871 places, following a 37% shortfall in 2015-16. Universities reported filling 683 primary teacher places despite a target of 750, a similar picture to last year.

The key areas of concern are around recruitment of newly qualified teachers, head teachers, science and modern languages teachers and Welsh medium teachers.

Given the recent flurry of damning reports on the health of Welsh education it is little surprise that graduates are being put off the teaching profession.

The lives of teaching staff have been made almost intolerable by successive Labour ministers and it is no surprise that so many are being forced away from the classroom.

Over-burdened with red tape, demoralised, stressed, and dealing with ever-moving goalposts, our teachers are not being allowed to do the very thing we need them to do – teach – and this is clearly putting graduates off entering the profession, Figures obtained by the NUT show nearly 50,000 teaching days were lost in Wales in 2016 due to stress, clearly indicating the desperate need to secure real change in our approach to supporting teachers. And of course, while these teachers are absent, supply teachers are sent in to fill the void, which is not only costing a fortune, but is also failing to give children the stability needed in their education.

From plummeting international league table results to scathing Estyn reports and teaching surveys that signal a pending mass exodus, the Welsh Government is presiding over a dangerous decline in teacher recruitment and retention.

They are promising to address the problem with a marketing campaign to attract more people to the profession, but it will take more than that to tackle this problem.

They need to address the reputational issues faced by the school system here in Wales, make more generous bursaries available for hard to recruit subject areas, and deal with teacher workload issues to ensure our teachers stay in the profession.

They also need to ensure that teaching in Wales is a first choice profession so we attract the very best. Good teachers make all the difference and determine whether our children succeed or fail.

Declining educational standards continue to impact on Wales’ children and we cannot allow this to continue. If we don't act now we will be failing children and young people for many years to come.