Half of newly qualified teachers drop out

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Nearly twice as many teachers are trained as schools actually need because thousands with poor academic qualifications drop out before making it to the classroom, a report has revealed.

Four out of 10 trainees in 2007/08 were not teaching in state schools six months after leaving university. Drop-out rates were highest among teachers who began training with poor A-level or degree qualifications

These teachers were also more likely to be training for subjects considered strategically important by the Government, including maths, science and languages.

Just 42.6 per cent of trainee maths teachers achieved a 'good' upper second or first-class degree.

The report raised concerns over the wastage rate from teaching courses, likely to be costing taxpayers tens of millions of pounds a year in wasted tuition and student support costs.

The trends emerged in an analysis of teacher training institutions by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of Buckingham University.

'It is extraordinary that we have to train almost double the number of teachers as are actually needed,' their report said.

'In 2007/08 there was a drop-out of almost 40 per cent between the final year of teacher training and taking a post in a maintained school.'

The trainees dropped out either because of under-performance on their courses, disillusion with teaching or a failure to find work in schools.

While some of those recorded as being out of teaching after six months may find work later, separate figures suggest that 18 per cent of newly qualified teachers quit within three years.

High drop-out rates were linked with a trainee's own poor education.

The report found that, for both undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training courses, 'entry qualifications tend to be low'.

Only 31 per cent of undergraduates training to teach science in secondary schools had at least two A-levels.

At one college training undergraduates to work in secondary schools, just 1.4 per cent of starters had two A-levels.

Education degrees had the lowest entry qualifications of 19 subjects listed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in 2004 - the year trainees in the study began their courses.

Subjects such as maths, science and languages were caught up in a vicious cycle, the report warned.

'Places are difficult to fill, the relatively low entry qualifications are associated with high dropout from courses, and there is a poor conversion rate of trainees to teachers,' the report said.

In contrast, for subjects such as English and history, 'there is competition for training places, high completion and the successful are snapped up by schools'.

The study showed that only 63 per cent of all final year trainees were found to be teaching in state schools six months after completing training.  Four per cent were in independent schools and 4.5 per cent in other teaching, making 71 per cent in all.

Professor Smithers said: "These figures must be a cause for concern. Teacher trainees in crucial subjects seem under-qualified and the training process seems very wasteful."

Students who received their training in schools were much more likely to become teachers.

Dr Robinson said: "We should be looking to expand these routes. The direct linkage of training and teaching is more efficient and effective than the two-step process of having to recruit first to universities and then to schools."

Professional Development Today