Paragraphs referring to mathematics:
On top of all that are the effects of the pay policy which froze teachers salaries for three years from 2010, and recently capped rises for most teachers at 1% until 2020. As any maths teacher could tell you, that means pay cuts in real terms – and more disaffection, as wages in the private sector start ticking up. […]
He echoes concerns about subjects such as maths and the sciences feeling the pinch. “I think that’s a combination of the economy picking up, and the fact there’s just not that straightforward route into teaching,” he says. Howes runs a course for people who haven’t got degrees in physics – an A-level is the basic requirement – but want to become physics teachers. “The number of schools I’m working with who haven’t got properly trained physics teachers is massive,” he says. “You just keep coming across the fact that trainees are working with teachers who are not themselves trained in physics.” It takes me a while to process what this means, in some cases: people without physics degrees being helped to teach physics by people who don’t have physics degrees either. […]
Barber hands me a sheet of paper recording all the vacancies he has advertised over the last few years, and how many applications he got back. A job teaching art attracted 18 – because, he says, thanks to the changes pushed through by the government, “schools are now actively reducing numbers of art teachers”, and many are going spare. By contrast, the numbers of people applying for jobs teaching English, science and computing never got any higher than four – and appointing a new head of maths, he says, was “an absolute nightmare”.
Finding heads of departments, he says, is a particular problem, what with Ofsted ready to pounce, and results in key subjects so crucial for a school’s reputation: “If you’re the head of maths or the head of English, you are so accountable: if the maths department goes down, the whole school goes down.” For this job, the school got four applications, three of which were “no good”, leaving one that he says was outstanding. The applicant came from a large academy chain, which for some reason, had given her a poor reference.
“We couldn’t understand it – what we could see in front of us, and what the reference said were completely at odds with each other,” he says. He decided to employ her, and she accepted – but a few weeks before the end of term, he received a call saying she wouldn’t take the job after all. “The next thing I know, this chain was announcing its new head of maths in a brand-new academy,” he says. “Presumably, they offered her a better deal.” He suddenly looks pained. “I feel like the corner shop up against Tesco. These academy chains have huge resources, and lots of lots of schools. I won’t appoint anyone I don’t think is capable of doing the job. That would still be my official line. But the truth is, you do find yourself thinking: if I don’t appoint this person and I advertise again, that’s going to cost me another £3,500 when money is really tight.”