British schools are facing a shortage of math teachers, and the situation is so dire in some schools that physical education teachers and teacher assistants are filling in. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan admitted the math teacher shortage comes at a time when the UK wants more students to study math and embark on a teaching career path.
Morgan said that math is one of the most popular A-level exams and could eventually lead to more math graduates choosing career in education:
“One of the messages we have to get out is that we need great people to be teachers and we need to make it easier for people to get into teaching and to do the training.”
Morgan mentioned several government initiatives aimed at solving the shortage crisis:
“We do need more [teachers]. That’s why the prime minister announced a program in March of attracting more generous bursaries, attracting more maths graduates, but also helping those already working in schools teaching maths to increase their skills and confidence in doing so.”
This year, the UK government failed to meets its recruitment target for trainee teachers. At the same time, two London schools hired 66 teachers from Jamaica to address their shortages.
According to the UK’s Express., the Department of Education will launch and advertise a program to invite foreign teachers from Europe, Singapore and China to address the staff shortage. An email leaked to the Times Educational Supplement states:
“The department has recently embarked on an exploratory STEM international recruitment program. The aim of the STEM international recruitment project is to boost direct recruitment of high-quality mathematics and physics teachers coming from overseas.”
The email by the Department of Education official also states that the United Kingdom is seeking to build relationships with other countries.
Teachers unions greeted the gesture by emphasizing that the move doesn’t actually solve the problem. Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union leader, said:
“This is overdue recognition and acceptance by the Government that we have a teacher shortage. Until the Government recognizes that teachers’ pay is too low and the impact of constant Government-induced policy changes, and does something to improve working conditions, teachers will continue to hemorrhage from our schools.”
Morgan admitted that the problem is complex:
“I would not disagree, there are challenges in teacher recruitment,” pointing out the recovering economy as a major factor.
According to the Guardian, schools are doubling up classes and using non-math teachers to offer math lessons because of the staff shortage.
Labour party committee member Ian Mearns says the math teacher shortage is estimated at 5,000 staff with the crisis being particularly evident in Further Education colleges that offers GCSE math exam re-takes.
Schools are turning to PE and geography teachers, as well as teacher assistants, to lead math classes.