Expert opinion Changes under Gove have brought about STEM teacher shortage

Schools face a “looming disaster” over a severe shortage of teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, education and science experts at Leicester have warned.

Commenting on the latest report from the House of Commons Education Committee on the recruitment and retention of teachers, Martin Barstow, Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science, and Professor Chris Wilkins, the University’s Director of Teacher Education, blamed government policy under former education secretary Michael Gove for worsening teacher shortages in the vital STEM subjects.

Changes introduced by Gove unravelled 10-15 years of slow painstaking work to boost STEM recruitment carried out by the learned societies in conjunction with university teacher training departments, Professor Barstow said. STEM subjects have also been hit by cuts affecting the continuing professional development of teachers.

Professor Wilkins said the government has failed to address a teacher supply crisis “created almost entirely by Michael Gove's wilful refusal to take heed of overwhelming evidence from the UK and internationally about the most effective ways of recruiting, training and retaining a high quality professional workforce”. The evidence demonstrated that the best teacher education takes place in equal partnerships between schools and universities, he said.

Professor Wilkins warned that unless the government is prepared to provide significant levels of support for professional development, the teacher supply crisis will worsen as the numbers leaving the profession early continues to rise and those that are left become increasingly demoralised.

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