You can have all of the education policies in the world to raise standards in the classroom. If you do not have enough teachers, they will be of little use.
Ask almost anybody in charge of running the education system and they will tell you that the key to success in improving education is teacher quality. But quantity matters too. Teachers can inspire and enthuse only if they have been trained in their subjects.
The problems, it appears, are not confined to maths and science. Other key subjects report a shortfall. In foreign languages the hoped-for growth in numbers opting to study Mandarin has not materialised – partly, according to the British Council, because of a lack of trained teachers. The Government, too, has been making serious noises about bringing the teaching of new technology into the 21st century through a new computer-science curriculum – but seems to be failing to attract the necessary teachers.
This is why it is crucial that, if there are any problems with the new teacher-training arrangements (whereby more of the work is transferred from teacher-training institutions to the classroom), these should be ironed out as quickly as possible. It may simply be a case of making sure everyone knows how the new system works.
The problem seems unlikely to be solved simply by offering higher salaries for particular subject areas – which schools will be free to do as a result of Michael Gove’s reforms. There are just too many gaps. The Government also has to look at whether the overall budget is enough to help schools to attract the talent they need, as the jobs market begins to open up again in the private sector.