The Government has missed its own target for recruiting school teachers by almost a third, figures show, leading critics to blame “devastating” real-terms pay cuts in the education sector.
The percentage of the PGITT overall target achieved for all subjects – secondary and primary – was 71%.
Recruitment figures have also dropped since last year, with 28,991 new entrants to initial teacher training (ITT) compared with 36,159 in 2021-22.
The fall – of 20% – has been described as a “disaster” for children by the National Education Union (NEU).
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) labelled it a “new low” following previous years of the department missing similar targets.
The figures show that just 59% of the overall target for secondary subject trainees was reached this year, down from 79% in 2021-22, when the target was also missed.
In the lowest-recruited secondary subjects such as physics, the Government has recruited as few as one in six of the trainees they say are needed, the data suggests.
None of the three main categories – primary, secondary and EBacc (English Baccalaureate) subjects – saw numbers improve.
Just 62% of the EBacc goal was reached and 93% of the primary target, according to DfE figures.
The DfE said its comprehensive failure to reach the targets was driven by a drop in the number of entrants and an increase in the target, from 31,030 last year to 32,600 in 2022/23.
But education experts blamed a real terms pay cut, excessive workloads and underinvestment in education for making the profession unappealing to graduates.
James Zuccollo, director for School Workforce at the Education Policy Institute, said: “It’s now clear that teaching’s heightened popularity during the pandemic was short-lived… This decline in popularity raises questions over the Government’s decision to cut retention payments during the pandemic.
“Similarly, it’s concerning that the overall attainment of graduates entering the profession is declining, with 75% holding a first class or 2:1 degree this year, down from 78% last year despite more graduates attaining these grades across the population. In each case, teaching must be placed on a more equal footing with competitor career routes graduates have access to.”
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called for an inflation-proofed pay rise for teachers.
She said: “The Government’s teacher recruitment strategy is an abject failure. They have missed targets for both secondary and primary teacher recruitment. This is a disaster for our schools and our children.
“It is clear that the Government’s real-terms pay cuts are having a devastating impact on teacher recruitment and retention. Teacher pay levels are not sufficient to support teacher supply and an already critical recruitment and retention problem is getting even worse.
“Our children and young people bear the brunt of this mismanagement and deserve far better.”
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “The Government’s own figures show once again the extent of the recruitment crisis in teaching which has gone from bad to worse. Years of underinvestment in teachers’ pay, along with the failure to address excessive workload and working hours, are deterring many graduates and career changers from pursuing a career in teaching.
“The year-on year erosion of teachers’ salaries has left teaching at the bottom of the graduate pay league. Under this Government we have had 12 wasted years of underinvestment and failure which have let down children and young people.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL): “The Government has consistently missed its own targets for recruitment over the course of the past decade but this is a new low.
“A key cause of this crisis is the long-term erosion of teacher pay which has fallen in real-terms by a fifth since 2010, making it uncompetitive in the graduate market place.
“This is compounded by the Government’s underfunding of schools which has driven up workload and made the profession less attractive. The Government has to recognise and address these pressures instead of constantly burying its head in the sand.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Education is a top priority for this Government which is why we are investing an extra £2 billion into our schools next year and the year after. This will be the highest real-terms spending on schools in history totalling £57.3 billion by 2024/25.
“We understand that teacher recruitment is challenging, which is why we have taken action to raise the profile of this important and prestigious profession.
For teacher trainees in 2023, bursaries worth up to £27,000 and scholarships worth up to £29,000 to in key subjects such as chemistry, computing, mathematics, and physics are available. We also remain committed to raising the starting salary for teachers to £30,000 next year.”