Teacher recruitment and supply teaching in Wales

This blog provides some background information ahead of a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams is due to make on Teacher Recruitment on Tuesday 24 October. However, the Business Statement of 10 October indicated that the statement would be on Supply Teaching. We have therefore provided some background information on that issue also.

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This blog provides some background information ahead of a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams is due to make on Teacher Recruitment on Tuesday 24 October. However, the Business Statement of 10 October indicated that the statement would be on Supply Teaching. We have therefore provided some background information on that issue also.

Teacher recruitment numbers

There has been growing concern amongst some stakeholders over the number of teachers being recruited in Wales. The Education Workforce Council (EWC), on its website, provides a table highlighting the number of trainee school teachers, in Wales, over the last 15 years:

Number of trainee school teachers in initial teacher training institutions in Wales by year (as at 1st August 2016)

In June 2017, the Welsh Government published more detailed demographic data on Initial Teacher Education in Wales 2015/16.

The Welsh Government also undertakes an annual School Census which highlights, amongst other things, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) qualified teachers in Local Authority maintained schools in Wales. This School Census data highlights the reduction in teacher numbers in Wales, as highlighted in Table 1.

Table 1: The number of FTE qualified teachers in LA maintained schools in Wales


It is important to note that this reduction in the number of teachers was a deliberate policy by the Welsh Government, following the release of Professor John Furlong’s Review of Initial Teacher Training in Wales in 2006. This Review found that there was an oversupply of teachers. There has also been a drop in the number of pupils in Wales over the last ten years. Table 2 uses data from the StatsWales website, to show the variation in pupil numbers in Wales.

Table 2: The total number of pupils in classes in Wales


However, even with the reduced need, the EWC figures show that the ITE centres have failed to meet their intake targets for 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16, which were all set at 1,630 trainees (750 primary, 880 secondary). There is some evidence that there are particular shortages of teachers in the areas of:

  • Welsh medium provision;
  • science and mathematics; and
  • in deprived or rural schools.

Incentives for Initial Teacher Education

Graduates in the UK are encouraged to train to teacher through ‘incentives’, which are cash payments which help cover living costs while they study. In Wales, at present, different levels of incentives are available depending on what subject the student is training to teach. For priority subjects, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry or Welsh then students are eligible for £20,000 to train. There is then a sliding scale of incentives down to £3000 to train to teach in subjects such as history, religious education, art, physical education etc. Those without a degree can train to be a teacher through an undergraduate route and receive the standard student funding support available to all first time students.

In March 2014, Professor John Furlong was appointed as Initial Teacher Education and Training (ITET) Adviser for Wales. He was tasked with improving the ITE sector in Wales. He reported in March 2015 and you can read more about this report in an earlier blog. One of the recommendations of Professor Furlong’s report was

7.That the Welsh Government monitors the impact of financial ITE incentives on recruitment as, in some instances, incentives offered in England may be more generous than in Wales.

The report goes on to note that

This, course leaders suggest, is having a negative impact on their ability to recruit the highest quality candidates.

In a letter to the Committee, dated 14 March 2017, the Cabinet Secretary mentioned that an ITE Expert Forum, which is chaired by Professor John Furlong, ‘will be reviewing aspects of teacher recruitment, retention and development’. She went on to report that

I recently received an internal review on the operation of teaching incentives which I have referred to the ITE Expert Forum for consideration. I have agreed that the existing ITE financial incentives scheme will continue in 2017/18. The Expert Forum will also review evidence of best practice for alternative routes into teaching, exploring in full their potential to support teacher recruitment and retention.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee are currently undertaking an inquiry into Teachers’ Professional Learning and Education, reviewing evidence on teacher recruitment as part of that.

Supply teaching

The issue of supply teaching has been a matter of some interest for both the Assembly and other bodies for some time. A number of reports have considered issues relating to supply teaching:

CYPE’s overarching recommendation

Much of the evidence heard by the CYPE Committee suggested that many of the issues identified could be ameliorated if there were closer arrangements between the employers of supply teachers and those with responsibility for providing school education, for example cluster arrangements operated by local authorities or a national body. The Committee made an overarching recommendation that the Welsh Government should start work to design a new model for the employment of supply teachers. This was accepted in principle and the Welsh Government ‘supported the direction of the recommendation’.

The Welsh Government established a Ministerial Supply Model Taskforce in June 2016. Their report was published [PDF 523KB] on 2 February 2017, with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, accepting most of the recommendations. The report considered various models for supply teaching provision, such as the central supply model currently operating in Northern Ireland, where only teachers who are on the centralised register can be employed to work in maintained schools. However, the Taskforce found that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution that could be implemented across Wales with immediate effect.

The Taskforce considered data published by the Education Workforce Council, An analysis of registered supply school teachers (July 2016).

Cabinet Secretary for Education’s response to the Taskforce Report

The Cabinet Secretary said in response to the report that she agreed that there is clear room for improvement in the way that supply teachers are currently employed and managed.  Kirsty Williams accepted most of the report’s recommendations at that point in time. However, she said that further detailed work and analysis is required to establish whether all of those recommendations are legally deliverable.

In a letter of 27 September 2017 [PDF496KB], Kirsty Williams updated the CYPE Committee on progress with the previous Committee’s Supply Teaching Report’s recommendations. She said:

  • The Welsh Government is committed to investigating alternative new models for supply teaching;
  • The powers to set teachers’ pay and conditions is yet to be transferred with the earliest date by which a teachers’ pay system would come into force is September 2019;
  • There are potential advantages to the type of centralised scheme that operates in Northern Ireland but the legislative and contextual landscape in Wales is quite different to that in Northern Ireland when they implemented their system;
  • Local authorities have been asked to express an interest in pilot arrangements, supported by Welsh Government funding to support regional supply cluster models. This would support Newly Qualified Teachers in accessing employment, help schools meet their supply needs and build capacity across regions. Twenty-one authorities have expressed an interest.

Article by, Sian Hughes and Joseph Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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