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In August 2016, just over a thousand trainees qualified as school teachers from Welsh universities, yet a decade ago, this number was nearly twice as many.

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

  2002-2003 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016
Number of Students (%) Number of Students (%) Number of Students (%) Number of Students (%) Number of Students (%) Number of Students (%)
Passed 1910 90.3 1539 87.8 1398 88.9 1329 88.6 1177 85.0 1033 86.8
Failed 51 2.4 18 1 16 1 15 1 7 0.5 15 1.3
Withdrawn 86 4.1 88 5 49 3.1 78 5.2 64 4.6 65 5.5
Deferred 69 3.3 107 6.1 110 7 78 5.2 137 9.9 77 6.5
Total 2116 100 1752 100 1573 100 1500 100 1385 100 1190 100

 

professional insights trainee teachers

So why have the numbers fallen so significantly? In 2006, Professor John Furlong carried out a review on behalf of the Welsh Government about initial teacher training. One of his findings was that we were training more school teachers than we needed in Wales. Many of these new teachers were unable to secure permanent jobs in Wales or moved to England, Ireland or further afield to work. Simply put, Wales was over training for its needs, with this oversupply particularly noticeable in the primary phase. The Welsh Government, therefore decided to cut teacher training numbers in Wales, with gradual year on year reductions as may be seen in the above table and diagram.

However, it is not just the reduction in school teacher training numbers that is of interest. For example, the data shows that:

  • Year on year, only around 1% of trainees fail to meet the QTS standards at the end of their course and just 0.07% go on to fail their statutory Induction programme
  • There are differences in fail / withdrawal / deferral rates between institutions.
  • Pass rates are higher amongst females than males.
  • Around 35% of new teachers who complete initial teacher training in institutions in Wales are aged 25 or over

Number of trainee school teachers by institution (as at 1st August 2016)


Passed Failed Withdrawn Deferred Total (%)
Aberystwyth University 47 4 10 0 61 5.0
Bangor University 246 0 5 20 271 22.5
Cardiff Metropolitan University 300 0 27 22 349 28.9
University of South Wales 83 11 2 3 99 8.2
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 89 0 2 4 95 7.9
University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Swansea) 284 0 19 28 331 27.4
Total From Institutions 1049 15 65 77 1206 100
Percentage 87% 1% 5% 6%

Number of trainee school teachers by age (as at 1st August 2016)


Under 25 25 to 29 30 to 34 35 to 39 40 to 44 45 to 49 50 to 54 55 to 64 Total
Passed 698 253 46 26 12 8 5 1 1049
Failed 11 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 15
Withdrawn 35 13 7 6 2 2 0 0 65
Deferred 42 22 7 2 2 1 0 1
77
Total 786 289 62 34 16 12 5 2
1206
Percentage (%) 65.2 24.0 5.1 2.8 1.3 1.0 0.4 0.2 100

It is hard to argue that the cuts in school teacher training numbers described above were not the right thing to do. However, that does not mean that Wales has not had its recruitment challenges in recent years. For example:

  • Certain secondary school subjects such as STEM and Welsh have traditionally been harder to recruit to. Similarly, the number of candidates for Welsh medium posts is generally lower
  • A number of local authorities in Wales are reporting difficulties in recruiting headteachers, particularly in rural areas. Unlike in England, there is still a requirement in Wales for new headteachers to hold NPQH

What is now interesting is that despite the Welsh Government’s planned annual reductions in training numbers, 5 of the 6 teacher training institutions in Wales failed to recruit to their in take targets in 2015 and while we await the figures for September 2016, it seems this has not improved this year. Anecdotally, there appear to be a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • The recent requirement for trainees to hold a B grade in Mathematics and English
  • Better financial incentives to train as a school teacher in England
  • Difficulties in obtaining permanent posts in Wales. Note, EWC data shows that over 80% of new teachers in Wales have to take fixed term contracts or supply work
  • Negative publicity about the quality of training in Wales

So what happens next? A rise in the birth rate is forecast, meaning we may need more school teachers. The decision for teachers’ pay and conditions being devolved to Wales may also have an impact on recruitment and retention in future. Also, the dynamics of the workforce are changing with a huge rise in the use of learning support staff in recent years (over 32,000 in schools and FE colleges joined the EWC Register for the first time from April 2016). These are all factors to consider in future workforce planning in our schools.

The Welsh Government has also announced reform. Following a further report by Professor Furlong in in 2015 (“Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers”), changes to the content of school teacher training programmes from 2019 are planned and employment based routes are also under consideration, following a decision to discontinue Teach First Cymru.

So its fair to say that the school teacher recruitment and retention picture in Wales is fascinating to say the least! Watch out for more analysis and insights from the EWC on this subject in the coming months.


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