There’s an acute shortage of math’s teachers. How do we tackle it?

For the first time since the 1970s the UK is recruiting teachers from abroad to teach in English Schools. The Westminster Government plans to spend up to £10 million to hire foreign teachers. Teachers will need to be recruited, trained and may need to be given English lessons. The first group of teachers from abroad will be placed in schools as early as September 2018.

Why is there a lack of teachers?

There is a bit of speculation about the reason why there is a lack of maths teachers. One of the biggest reasons is that the number of pupils in England in secondary education is rapidly growing. Combine this with the overall number of full-time teachers in secondary schools dropping and cuts to school budgets and there’s clearly an issue here.

What can we do to fill these posts?

If you look online, you will find lots of different proposed solutions to this problem.

The Government has invested millions into a teacher training program for recent maths graduates. There is also plans to train general teachers to specialise in maths and there is an online program for former maths teachers to access training so that they can get back into the classroom.

Headteachers need to look at their staffing needs and think long term. Hiring assistant teachers and training them up now might be a better idea than waiting until the gap appears in the department. This way might be expensive but not as expensive as having a class without a teacher.

There is also a shortage of STEM teachers in Scotland and the factors governing this are diminished salaries, lack of opportunity for promotion, a weariness at constant curricular changes, a general unhappiness at the new Curriculum for Excellence, increased discipline problems in schools and a feeling of a lack of respect from the general public. A degree in one of the STEM subjects allows those graduates to consider alternative professions that offer far better rewards.

Introducing incentives may help bring more graduates into the classroom in England. These may include offering to pay off student loans, increase trainee teacher salaries (and qualified teachers too!) and improving the working conditions.

Another speculative idea is to introduce teaching to students while they are still in high school. If final year students could teach the younger pupils, then this may give them a taste for teaching which they may go on to pursue.

But is this enough?

We need a permanent solution to this problem so that we can attract full-time permanent teachers and retain them. The Department for Education plans to invest £1.3bn until 2020 to attract more trainee teachers and there are now more teachers entering the classrooms than those leaving or retiring.

The Government is trying to tackle this situation, with funding being made available for recruiting new maths teachers, whether this is from the UK or from abroad.

Could more be done to encourage students to consider teaching as a viable career option?

There are so many benefits of becoming a teacher. From making a valuable difference in children’s lives and nurturing a devotion to lifelong learning to taking advantage of great school holidays and flexible working conditions. There’s no disputing it can also be a lot of hard work with plenty of lesson prep and planning and it can be extremely challenging at times – but the most challenging jobs often reap the most satisfying rewards.

Our classrooms need the best teachers who encompass all the qualities you would desire from someone teaching your child: an engaging teaching style, great discipline skills, knowledge of their chosen subject(s) and a passion to get the best from every child. It’s recognised that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher but perhaps if a child displays some of these attributes while still at school, they could be actively encouraged to pursue teaching as a vocation.

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