There are a number of reasons for this - although from experience in the 1990s at the end of the last recession I'd actually suggest the biggest single factor is the improving economy and the return of graduate recruitment programmes which have always attracted top maths and physical science graduates.
My worry today though is that all this research will do is to unleash a new round of 'blame-storming' - with the Government, unions and universities competing to say who is responsible, and the reputation of the teaching profession being tarnished even more in the process. This would be doubly frustrating as the one thing that everyone involved in the debate is clear about is the link between good teachers who are specialists in their subject, good teaching and good schools.
What is needed in my opinion is a focus on solving two areas: Reclaiming teaching as a long-term rewarding career; and better communication of the great things that schools and teachers do. Here's why...
1. Reclaiming teaching as a long-term rewarding career:
One of the most depressing statistics to come out recently was the OECD report that Britain has the youngest primary and third youngest secondary teaching workforce of any developed country. Apart from putting too much pressure on teacher recruitment, this also means that teachers in schools are probably spending too much time training new entrants and there are few older role models in the classroom for young teachers.
Why do we have such a young workforce? I'd have to say that the idea of teaching as a career has been lost recently. Schools are plunged from one OFSTED inspection to the next and given short-term improvement plans. Staff are put on capability (i.e. 'exit') plans on the basis of one poor 20 minute observation based on what the school leadership thinks is needed for immediate improvement. There is CPD but most of it is about solving the immediate crisis not long term issues.
While I'm not going to argue against the idea that assessment of teaching quality is important, the focus must move from a 'hire-and-fire' mentality to helping teachers improve and innovate over a lifetime. Other countries offer career breaks, time out of the classroom for training, more time in the week to work with colleagues and so on. Singapore offers a range of career paths that can move in and out of the classroom. We can do better.
2. Better communication of the great things schools and teachers do:
I think most teachers are sick to death of the negative portrayal of their profession. I've said this before but there is a real need for us all to put aside our political preferences and find stories that show the great things happening in schools.
Maybe the next couple of weeks would be an ideal time. What if we used the A-level and GCSE results as an opportunity to focus on the young people who have achieved results that they are proud of - from whatever background? We can go back to disputing whether exams are easy or whatever in September (any maybe do it with respect for each other)!