Teacher Trauma
Subject Shortages
Topic Labor Markets
Key Words Shortage, salaries, bonuses, raises, inflation, performance-based increases, recessions
News Story

In the United Kingdom (UK), there is a serious shortage of teachers. During the past winter, when some teachers were off sick, there were insufficient substitute teachers to replace them, so students were sent home, or classes were doubled up. There are also regional shortages, especially in London, and subject shortages, especially in math and languages.

This has prompted employers to offer training salaries and "golden hello" signing bonuses, and raises higher than the rate of inflation. Teaching salaries are now greater than the average salary received by new graduates, at least in inner London. Teachers can also be given performance-based increases. History indicates that when salaries are competitive with other careers, more graduates join the profession and stay in it. Otherwise, schools have to rely on recessions and a lack of jobs elsewhere.

Critics say that more needs to be done to make teaching attractive, such as by making students respect authority more, offering smaller classes, giving more time for preparation and grading, and giving disaffected teenagers more vocational opportunities. Above-average raises are also needed for several years.

(Updated May 1, 2001)

1. Draw a diagram of the market for teachers in the UK. Show the demand and supply curves and a salary level that is consistent with a shortage. a) In general, what determines the position of the supply curve? b) In the case of UK teachers, what is causing it to be so far to the left? c) Show the anticipated effects of the recent raises. Explain what happens to the supply of teachers.
2. Critics say that working conditions need improvement. How would this affect the disequilibrium situation? Illustrate on a new diagram.
3. In the past, recession has enabled schools to recruit adequate numbers of teachers. How does a recession affect the supply of labor to teaching, and why? Show what happens on a new diagram.
Source Wendy Berliner, "Reward teachers and we all reap the benefits," The Independent, February 8, 2001.

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