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RAND Europe study reveals Cambridgeshire is at the centre of national teacher shortage crisis

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Attracting and retaining teachers Cambridge Ahead 3
Attracting and retaining teachers Cambridge Ahead 3

While the number of students is expected to soar over the next decade, schools in Cambridgeshire are struggling to attract new teachers.

More teachers are leaving the profession in Cambridgeshire than are being recruited. Combine this with the fact that the county’s school-age population is expected to increase by up to 20 per cent over the next 5 to 10 years and there is cause for concern.

That’s the message from RAND Europe, the Cambridge-based not-for-profit research institute that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

Now, Cambridge’s Labour MP, Daniel Zeichner, has called in the House of Commons for an emergency meeting with Education Secretary Justine Greening to discuss the serious shortfall on teacher numbers in the county.

In a city that is relying on a new generation of STEM-oriented (science, technology, engineering and maths) youngsters to keep it competing on the global stage, think-tank Cambridge Ahead commissioned the research to identify why the county is failing to attract new teaching talent.

There are more teachers now making £25,000 or less in Cambridgeshire than there were five years ago, and that to me is worrisome and problematic
Julie Bélanger, research leader at RAND Europe

The facts are grim, as Julie Bélanger, research leader at RAND Europe, summarised: "We’re increasingly seeing teachers that are in the lower pay ranges and fewer in the high pay ranges. We know it’s not because they’re less experienced and it’s not because there are more part-time teachers.

"We see some lessening of job security, with fewer permanent contracts, and this indicates that Cambridgeshire may be becoming less attractive to potential teachers.

"There are more teachers now making £25,000 or less in Cambridgeshire than there were five years ago, and that to me is worrisome and problematic.

"We’ve got 18 per cent of teachers retiring and only 12 per cent coming into the profession. We’re not covering the retirements that we’re losing, let alone the wastage."

Wastage refers to teachers who leave the profession for a myriad of reasons, from sick leave to pursuing a new career.

"Individually, these factors may not be that dramatic," said Julie. "But when you start combining them together you get a story that’s becoming consistent, and you start looking at this over the past five years and see that it’s gradually worsening in the region. The picture’s not looking good and not looking like it’s improving. I think these results are very worrisome."

:: How Cambridgeshire schools will be hit by funding cuts

Andy Daly, headteacher at Swavesey Village College, said: "Some of the findings of this report point clearly to the most significant issue, the historic under-funding of schools in Cambridgeshire. We’ve got to find 8 per cent cuts in the next five years, which is a significant precipice facing education in our region."

He said that as well as recruiting – the cost of which is increasing – retaining staff was equally a challenge. "We’ve seen regularly that staff have had to move because they can’t afford to live in the Cambridge area," said Mr Daly.

Simon Galbraith, chief executive officer of Redgate Software in Cambridge, said: "I think the housing market is a factor, but what this report shows is that we, as a society and as a nation, are boneheadedly, stupidly failing to fund science education properly in its most successful region.

While everybody else’s wages have been going up, teachers’ wages have been going down. While everybody else’s working conditions are getting better, teachers’ have been getting worse.

The result of all that is a whole bunch of disenfranchised teachers who are thinking "Why the hell would I teach in Cambridge?" And they’d be right.

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