From education to employment

Labour pledges more teachers as part of plan to be “party of high and rising standards”

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Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson will today [Saturday] pledge to make Labour the party of “high and rising standards” in education by ensuring pupils are taught by specialist teachers in each subject, after new analysis by the party revealed alarming gaps in expert teaching in schools.

Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers conference, Phillipson will tell delegates that Labour’s mission in education will centre on raising standards across the education system to break down barriers to opportunity across the country.

Phillipson’s intervention comes as Labour published new analysis showing alarming gaps in expert teaching provision, raising fears that pupil attainment could suffer. Labour’s analysis found that:

  • More than one in four Physics lessons in the last year had been taught by a non-expert teacher
  • More than one in ten Maths lessons in the last year was taught by a non-expert teacher
  • Nearly one in five French, German, Drama and DT lessons in the last year had been taught by a non-expert teacher
  • One in three ICT lessons since 2015 were taught by a non-expert teacher
  • The number of hours of DT and Engineering lessons taught by experts fell in the last year

Labour’s intervention comes amid a “perfect storm” in recruitment and retention in the teaching workforce, forcing more and more schools to rely on non-expert teachers. Further analysis by the party found that the following numbers of teachers had no relevant post A Level qualification:

  • Two in five Physics teachers
  • One in four Design and Technology teachers
  • One in three Business and Economics teachers
  • One in four Chemistry teachers
  • Two in three Computing teachers
  • Half of ICT teachers

Teacher shortages are most acute in STEM subjects: previous Labours analysis showed that the Government has failed to reach its recruitment target for maths teachers in every year since 2012/13.

Labour has previously pledged to recruit thousands more teachers and drive higher standards in schools by investing money raised from ending private schools’ tax breaks in a brilliant state education for all.

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“We face an unprecedented workforce challenge because of the recruitment and retention crisis created by the Conservative government over the last 13 years.

“Not enough specialist teachers in subjects like maths and physics leaves schools scrambling to fill roles, or asking non-specialist teachers to go above and beyond. That means that high standards are for some of our children, not all of them.

“Excellence must be for everyone: that is why the next Labour government will invest in more teachers to fill these gaps and provide expertise, paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools.”

Sector Response

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“These findings chime with what we are regularly hearing from schools. Staff shortages are a growing problem, extend widely across many different subject areas and are impacting education on a daily basis. The expectation to have a specialist teacher at the front of every classroom is not an unreasonable one, but is not the reality for many pupils. Schools are increasingly being forced to turn to supply staff to cover for vacancies. While these staff are professional and work hard, it is not comparable to having the continuity of a permanent teacher that is an expert in their subject. As well as being disruptive for pupils, there are significant costs involved for schools that need to use recruitment agencies and hire supply staff.

“The situation simply cannot continue as it is and Labour’s pledge to recruit more teachers is a good start. We look forward to hearing more about their plans to address pay erosion, funding challenges and unmanageable workloads in order to make the profession more attractive to graduates and ensure their pledge can be fulfilled.”

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We have a shocking recruitment and retention crisis in education right now, and the government is doing nothing to tackle it. We have been sounding the warning for years, and now have been driven to balloting our members for strike action over it. The crisis is being driven by eroded teacher pay, unmanageable workload levels and scant regard for wellbeing. These are the issues Labour will have to address if they are to make good on their pledge.”

  • Labour’s analysis of the percentage of expert teaching hours taught in England’s schools can be found attached.
  • The Government has failed to reach its recruitment target for maths teachers in every year since 2012/13. To note, the number of trainees recruited did not meet the required target despite the Department for Education (DfE) its quota for maths trainees in 2022 by 27 per cent, from 2,800 to 2,040.   Year Entrants Target % of target achieved 2012/13 2340 2635 89 2013/14 2209 2570 86 2014/15 2186 2495 88 2015/16 2452 2581 95 2016/17 2547 3102 82 2017/18 2384 3102 77 2018/19 2174 3116 70 2019/20 2159 3343 65 2020/21 2794 3307 84 2021/22 2523 2800 90 2022/23 1844 2040 90  


  • 2015/16 – 2022/23 Table_2_subjects_target_time_series
  • 2012 – 2015 from: Table 1B. Initial teacher training new entrants by subject and target (detailed breakdown), 2004/05 to 2014/15, revised 1,2,3
  • Teacher vacancies in England have virtually doubled since before Covid, with school leaders increasingly forced to use non-expert teachers, which threatens to drive down pupil attainment, according to a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
  • A teacher who qualified in 2010 is 15% more likely to have left teaching within a decade than one who qualified in 2000, according to Labour’s analysis of the most recently available official figures.

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