Opinions aside as to whether you wanted voted for Britain to remain or leave the EU, there is no denying that our entire nation is currently caught up in some sort of political limbo. Things became even more uncertain earlier this week, following the historic voting down of Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Though, while events like these steal headlines, the unrelenting uncertainty surrounding our exit from the EU is having a profound impact across many sectors – education being one of them.
Teacher shortage crisis worsens
England’s education sector, as a whole, has been plagued by teacher shortage crisis for years. In fact, it’s hard to picture a time when teacher supply and demand were on an even keel.
But if new statistics are anything to go by, it seems things are about to go from bad to worse. As an article on The Guardian explains, the number of teachers from the EU wishing to work in England has fallen in the last year, with fears that Brexit will only make matters worse and hit language learning in particular.
Official data reveals that teachers from EU countries applying for the right to work in England’s schools fell by a quarter in just one year. A total 3,525 people from EU member states were awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18, a 25% decline on the year before.
Specifically, 17% fewer people from Spain applied for QTS, which entitles people to work in the majority of state and special schools. There was also an 18% drop in applicants from Greece and a 33% drop in Polish applicants.
Larger classes, falling expertise
Last summer, the Education Policy Institute warned that teacher shortages would become increasingly severe across England, resulting in larger classes and falling teaching expertise.
Recruitment targets were missed in every subject in 2018 bar biology, English, PE and history. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) also said that teacher-training applications were down last month compared to the same period last year.
Senior policy adviser at the union, Ian Hartwright, commented: “We found from our work that there is no evidence to suggest [EU teachers] are displacing UK teachers – in fact, they were probably filling gaps and mitigating a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching here are positively improving the lives of young people in England and the UK.”
Hartwright explained how modern languages could be among the subject most impacted by dwindling EU applicants.
The Labour party has said that the plan to introduce an immigration salary threshold of £30,000 after Brexit would have a huge impact on teaching.
Shadow schools minister Mike Kane said the Tories have created a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, with their “shambolic Brexit negotiations” making the situation worse.
A DfE spokesperson stressed how there are over 450,000 teachers in schools across England, over 10,000 more than in 2010, and that the number of people entering postgraduate initial teacher training has remained stable since 2016.
They added: “The education secretary has made clear his commitment to recruitment more teachers into our schools, and our upcoming Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy will also help address this.”
Suffice to say, the current picture is bleak. The Brexit debacle is likely to have a lasting impact on our sector, and we need to see evidence from the government and other bodies that things are being done to mitigate its impact as much as possible.
In your opinion, what do you think it will take to restore confidence in England’s education system among EU applicants?