Bridget Phillipson MP at Questions to the Department for Education
Bridget Phillipson MP at Questions to the Department for Education

Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has slammed the government for presiding over a worrying drop in the number of teachers in the north east, while class sizes continue to grow.

Ms Phillipson pressed education ministers in Parliament over statistics showing that the total number of teachers in the north east has declined by almost 500 in the space of a year, including a drop of 80 in Sunderland, while student to teacher ratios have simultaneously increased.

The concerning trend appears to be part of the wider crisis in the retention of teaching staff across England, with the cross-party Public Accounts Committee warning earlier this year that the government was failing to get a grip on the issue.

The committee, on which Ms Phillipson sits, identified excessive workload as the main reason for increasing numbers of qualified teachers leaving the profession before retirement, with schools subsequently struggling to fill teaching vacancies. Its inquiry also warned that projected increases in pupil numbers would likely add to the pressure on schools.

Following her question to the Education Minister, Ms Phillipson commented:

“It is clear that government ministers have their heads in the sand over the crisis they have created in teacher retention.

It’s extremely concerning that in the north east, the number of teachers in our classrooms has plummeted by almost 500 in one year alone, including a drop of 80 in Sunderland.

This is all whilst class sizes are continually increasing, with more children than ever before being taught in oversized classes.

In response to my question, the minister failed to lay out any clear plans to tackle this growing issue, and underestimated the scale of the problem.

It is clear that this government simply isn’t getting a grip on the seriousness of the crisis in teacher retention, making it more difficult to ensure that all our children get the best possible start in life.”

Watch Bridget’s question to the Education Minister here

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