Brief pandemic ‘surge’ in teaching applications has all but evaporated, warns NAHT

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, is speaking at the Schools and Academies Show on a panel about securing the ‘surge’ of post-pandemic teacher supply.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Whiteman said: “NAHT warned at the time that the increase in applications to initial teacher training in 2020 during the height of the pandemic should be viewed with great caution. Experience from the 2008 economic recession suggested that as the pandemic eases and economic conditions improve, the rise in applications would melt away.

“Unfortunately, these predictions have proved to be broadly accurate. The latest published UCAS data for September 2021 shows that applicants to ITT have fallen by just under eight per cent compared to September 2020. Behind the headline figures, there is also significant regional variation, as well as differences between different subjects.

“Of course, the supply of new teachers is only one part of the picture here and we should also be deeply concerned about the numbers considering leaving the profession. There is clear evidence that more teachers are now actively thinking about leaving the profession than was the case prior to the pandemic.

“The government’s handling of the pandemic and the way school staff feel they have been treated by policy makers over the last 18 months is a major factor in this.

“This is not just affecting classroom teachers, but school leaders too. The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) has made repeated warnings about leadership supply. NAHT’s research consistently shows that too few middle leaders want to become senior leaders, and too few assistants and deputies want to become heads.

“Nearly half of the school leaders surveyed by NAHT at the end of last year said that as a result of the pandemic, they were less likely to remain in school leadership for as long as initially planned.

“There is a real risk that we will see an exodus of leaders from the profession once the COVID-19 crisis is over. The government’s longstanding complacency on leaders’ workload and well-being was compounded by an unwarranted pay freeze for all leaders and qualified teachers this year, while the latest Budget announcement indicates what again will effectively amount to a real-terms cut in salaries.

“Despite the increased pressure on them, school leaders have stuck to their task. But unless the government acts urgently to make school leadership an attractive proposition for teaching professionals, the school leadership supply pipeline is going to run dry.”

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