‘Disastrous’ fall in new teachers as Londoners opt for better paid jobs

School leaders warned the situation has reached ‘a new low’.

ondoners are turning their backs on teaching and flocking to better paid jobs in the city, education experts have warned.

Schools in the capital are already struggling to recruit enough staff, and now the number of new trainees from London in the pipeline has dropped dramatically.

School leaders warned the situation has reached “a new low” with “disastrous” figures for recruitment to teacher training courses.

A combination of better paid jobs available in the capital and the high cost of living is putting Londoners off teaching, they said.Data shows the number of Londoners applying for teacher training through three main pathways have dropped significantly.

•The number of Londoners applying for postgraduate teaching courses has dropped by 11 per cent in one year, compared to an average drop in England of 4.9 per cent, according to Department for Education figures.

•1000 fewer top graduates from London applied to train with Teach First between 2021 and 2022 – a drop of more than one third (35%).

•The number of London students applying to start undergraduate teaching courses this September through UCAS dropped by 10 per cent compared to the previous year.

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, which trains top graduates to teach in deprived schools, said: “What the numbers are telling us is there are a lot of very good jobs available to graduates in London and teacher starting salaries are not as competitive as they used to be.”

He added: “London is a bell weather for the whole country on teacher recruitment. It has one of the most competitive job markets out there.

“The graduate job market as a whole – in contrast to teaching – is roaring ahead.

“Combine that with London being one of the most expensive cities to live in and you can see London will show up problems for teacher recruitment before anywhere else in the country.”

It comes after the National Foundation for Educational Research warned the government is likely to miss its target for recruiting teachers to primary schools and in key secondary school subjects. Vacancies in schools are “substantially higher” than before the pandemic, it found.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The situation appears to have reached a new low with disastrous figures for graduate recruitment to teaching and poor retention rates.”

He added: “Graduate recruitment to training courses in London is likely to be particularly problematic because of the high availability of better-paid alternative graduate employment in and around the capital, and the higher costs associated with living in London.”

The teaching profession has been rocked recently by damaging strikes over pay, and a debate over the future of schools watchdog Ofsted, following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Four teaching unions are in dispute with the government on pay and have rejected the latest offer. The National Education Union, the biggest teaching union, is planning more strikes.

Andria Zafirakou, who was named the world’s best teacher in 2018 and works as an art teacher in Brent, said: “At the moment with news about Ofsted and strikes we are not looking great and desirable as a profession.

“Some young people want the chance of having a balanced life and a nine to five job, plus time for a start up on the side and time for being creative.

“That is really hard to manage in the teaching world. People are finding they could use the skills of a teacher and have better pay and quality of life elsewhere.”

She added: “We need a huge shakeup. Teaching is still the best job in the world, it’s just the other stuff that comes with it like tick boxes and targets, that gets in the way.

“I am still such an advocate for the profession and I would recommend it. But it is exhausting and sometimes you want to rip your hair out and scream really loudly.”

Latest figures from the Department for Education show London suffered the second biggest drop in applications for postgrad teaching courses, (11%) after the East of England (12%). In February this year, 2,885 Londoners had applied for postgrad courses compared to 3,231 at the same point last year.

London also saw a drop of 10 per cent in applications for undergraduate courses through UCAS. Applications dropped from 5,450 in January 2023 to 4,900 in 2022. It means London performed worse than the North East, the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The number of Londoners applying for teacher training through Teach First dropped from 2,707 in 2021 to 1,770 in 2022 – a drop of 35 per cent. The figure is also 22 per cent lower than in 2019 before the pandemic.

Campaigners have also raised fears for the future of specialist subject such as Religious Education.

The Beyond the Ordinary campaign, which encourages people to train as Religious Education teachers, said just 137 people completed RE teacher training in London in 2022 compared with 154 the previous year, despite huge numbers of vacancies in the capital.

A Department for Education spokesman said the number of teachers in the system “remains high”. He added: “We know there is further to go to improve recruitment in some subjects. That is why we have put in place a range of measures, including bursaries worth £27,000 tax-free and scholarships worth £29,000 tax-free, to encourage talented trainees to key subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and computing.

“The average teacher in inner London earns £47,000 and the government’s recent teacher pay offer to unions would have raised that further, including a £1,000 one-off payment for this year and a headline pay increase for next year which is above average earnings growth.”

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