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Labour pledges to recruit 20,000 teachers

The Labour party has said it will recruit nearly 20,000 extra teachers over the next five years if it wins the general election next week

The party said the recruitment drive would be funded by an extra £25 billion in schools spending over the next three years. It has also committed to ensuring all teachers have formal teaching qualifications within five years.

Labour said this would guarantee every child is taught by a qualified teacher, after the Conservative government has allowed state schools to recruit unqualified teachers since 2012.

These latest pledges on education form part of Labour's manifesto commitment to cap school class sizes at 30 pupils.

However, the Liberal Democrats have criticised Labour for trying to ‘copy’ them, as the party announced a similar pledge to recruit 20,000 more teachers two weeks ago.

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Layla Moran added that Labour had "no hope of meeting this target".

She said Labour would not be able to "square these promises" with leaving the EU if voters back the party's Brexit deal in its planned referendum, due to "thousands of EU teachers coming to work in schools each year".

The pledge comes as figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) in November found that while there was a slight increase in the overall number of people starting teacher training in 2019, the figure for secondary school teachers was just 85% of the total required by the government’s teacher supply model.

The National Association of Head Teachers said 47,000 secondary teachers and 8,000 primary teachers would be needed by 2024 to keep pace with an expected increase in pupil numbers.

Its general secretary Paul Whiteman said that the pledge falls short of what is needed and has called for efforts to reduce the stress and workload teachers face.

"We need significantly more recruits than Labour are suggesting just to meet rising demand, never mind reduce current class sizes," said Whiteman.

"The new recruits we need will not magically appear, and nor will they stay if we don't also address the stress and unnecessary workload that is widespread in the system."

Pushed on whether Labour's pledges were enough, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told BBC Breakfast that the party was being "realistic".

"The investment would go in immediately, so the money that schools have had cut they would instantly see," she said.

"On 13 December, I can't bring in 20,000 teachers, of course not. But what I can do through our National Education Service [is] bring in the training and skills.

"So, things will move. Will it happen immediately overnight? Of course not. But immediately from day one of me being education secretary we will put it in place."

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed Labour's plans in light of "failing" policies on education.

Labour’s plan for investment in education and in teachers is very welcome news both for parents and the profession. The increases in class sizes, the lack of qualified teachers in many classes, the cuts in support for SEND pupils and the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, shows the current government is failing in its basic educational job," he said.

“At the same time our school buildings have been falling into disrepair – all these problems are a direct result of the current government’s decision to cut real-term funding to our schools and colleges. Children and young people have only one chance to go to school, it deserves to be the best."

June O'Sullivan, CEO of the Early Years Foundation, told HR magazine that more must be done to attract people to the profession if Labour is to reach its target.

"I would say good luck to them. The turnover in London for teachers is around 40%. The kind of people we've got entering the profession haven't received the right training, they feel unprepared and fearful. We've also got poor pay and conditions for teachers, so it really is a perfect storm," she said.

"When we're closing the doors to Europe, who have a calibre of training which is strong and a baseline similar to ours, we're making matters even worse. We need to focus on improving contracts and a better promotion of the sector to show how great a profession this can really be."