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March 16, 2022updated 17 Mar 2022 9:26am

England misses target for recruiting computing teachers for fifth year running

Only 589 new recruits signed up to be computing teachers in England last year, 25% short of the target.

By Afiq Fitri

Schools in England missed their target for recruiting computing teachers by 25% last year, according to IT professional body BCS’s latest report on computing education. It is at least the fifth year in a row in which the target has been missed.

Recruiting and retaining computing teachers may require more than one-off cash incentives. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

England’s missed target for computing teachers

The Department for Education’s target for the 2021/22 academic year was to recruit 840 new computing teachers, a 35% increase from the previous year’s target, but only 589 new recruits signed up.

English schools came close to hitting the target for the first time in 2020/21, but the shortfall has since widened. BCS noted that the success of the 2020/21 year could reflect the tendency for people to switch to careers in teaching during economic downturns. 

The DofE has introduced new incentives to encourage new entrants to the profession in recent year, including training bursaries and student loan repayments. The BCS expects these to be a "slow-burn" success, but warned of the risk of “bursary tourism”, in which trainees switch to the independent teaching sector once their training is complete.

Researchers at Durham University have shown that financial incentives are an ineffective way to encourage people to join the teaching profession, especially for STEM subjects, which tend to receive the largest incentives.

"Bursaries and scholarships are not long-term solutions because such incentives are only important to people who are already considering teaching: they do not change people’s decision to teach or not," they found. "Students in high-demand subjects receive the largest bursaries, but those attracted by money are least likely to enter teaching after qualifying, and most likely to leave. 

"In contrast, students who were not awarded bursaries were more likely to enter teaching after their training and least likely to leave."

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The researchers proposed a number of alternative approaches, including considering the impact of education policy on the supply and demand of teachers and raising the status of the teaching profession. "Nationwide work is needed to enhance the perceived status of teachers, using a wide range of improvements from politicians’ and press announcements, through in-service sabbaticals, to careers services," they wrote.

Gender disparity in computing students

The BCS report also revealed stark gender disparities in computing education. In England and Scotland, five times as many male students to computing A-levels as female students.

However, the BCS noted that female candidates in England appear to regularly outperform their male peers in A Level computing and ICT subjects. This trend was also evident in Scotland during the last academic year. 

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