Do most secondary schools use non-specialist teachers?

Published: 1st Mar 2016

In brief

Claim

Most secondary schools use teachers not trained in their subject

Conclusion

Two-thirds of people responding to a survey by a school and college leaders’ union said recruitment problems have led them to have subjects taught by non-specialists. We don’t know how representative that figure is of the experience of schools nationally. Official figures show that about one in six lessons in the key academic subjects in English secondary schools were being taught by teachers without a relevant post A level qualification in 2014. Around 24% of maths teachers and 21% of English teachers didn’t have a relevant post A level qualification in that year.

“Most secondary schools ‘use teachers not trained in their subject’”

The Independent, 1 March 2016

Two-thirds of people responding to a survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said recruitment problems have led them to have subjects taught by non-specialists.

The survey wasn’t designed to be nationally representative, so we don’t know what the national figure is. ASCL says its members work in over 90% of secondary schools in the UK, so we do at least know that a wide spread of school leaders were asked to take part. About 6% of those asked chose to.

Official statistics show the proportion of classes being taught in secondary schools by teachers without a relevant post A level qualification has been rising. This was the case for about 18% of English Baccalaureate subjects in 2014—up from 14% in 2010. We won’t have the figures for 2015 until June.

Majority of respondents said they had recruited non-specialists

789 people—89%—responding to ASCL’s survey said they were experiencing difficulties recruiting teachers.

When asked what actions they had taken because of problems recruiting, 595 people said they had “subjects taught by non-specialists”. That was 73% of the people responding to that question, and 67% of all people taking part (885).

There’s some fluctuation in the responses. More people answered the question about what actions they had taken due to problems recruiting (817 people) than said they were having problems recruiting (789 people). We can’t say why this is.

The survey wasn’t designed to be nationally representative

These results aren’t weighted by things like where respondents’ schools were located to match this up with the geographical spread of schools nationally. 

If respondents were more heavily based in certain areas this could make quite a big difference to the results (either by inflating them or deflating them) as we know that there are localised differences in recruitment.  

ASCL says the majority of respondents were from secondary schools.

The survey was sent to all 15,000 of ASCL’s full members, who include head teachers, deputy head teachers and managers in schools and colleges. About 6% took part.

We don’t know how typical the leaders responding were of all secondary schools. The fact that they chose to take part in the survey might mean that they had distinct experiences to those who didn’t. Some of them might also have been responding from the same school.

More hours are being taught by non-specialist teachers

The proportion of lessons being taught in secondary schools by teachers without a relevant post A level qualification in the subject has grown in the official figures.

In maths, about 16% of lessons were taught by teachers with no relevant post A level qualifications in 2010 (the furthest back these figures go), rising to 20% in 2014.

In English, the equivalent figure rose from 12% in 2010 to 17% in 2014.

Taking all the English Baccalaureate subjects together (English, maths, sciences, languages, history and geography), the proportion rose from 14% in 2010 to 18% in 2014, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The proportion of teachers in each subject without relevant post A level qualifications has also grown. More English, maths and science teachers lacked the relevant qualifications for their subjects in 2014 compared to 2013.

About 24% of maths teachers and 21% of English teachers lacked relevant post A level qualifications for their subject in 2014.

We don’t have the statistics yet for 2015.

The timing of these statistics—which are collected in November every year—may affect these results. There are fewer vacancies in teaching posts in November, according to the NAO, so this may also affect these statistics. 


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