German School Barometer: Acute Staff Shortages Top List of Schools’ Problems and Concerns
- Representative survey from the Robert Bosch Stiftung reveals staff shortages are far and away the greatest challenge facing school principals, followed by issues including digitalization, bureaucracy, and the principals’ own workload.
- Schools significantly behind target, particularly in underprivileged areas, where there are marked gaps in student learning despite Covid catch-up programs.
- Around half of schools have now reached capacity for accepting new immigrant students.
Stuttgart/Berlin, January 18, 2023 – Germany’s schools are suffering from an acute shortage of qualified staff that is overshadowing all other problems and concerns. Two-thirds (67 percent) of school principals believe the shortage of educational staff is the greatest challenge facing their school. In underprivileged areas, this number rises to as high as 80 percent. Other issues mentioned lagged far behind, such as the sluggish progress of digitalization (22 percent), too much bureaucracy (21 percent), and principals’ own high workload (20 percent). Conversely, the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated measures are now only of concern for one in ten schools (9 percent). These are the latest findings to emerge from the German School Barometer published by the Robert Bosch Stiftung today. For the first time, forsa surveyed exclusively school principals for the representative survey, which the Foundation has held since 2019.
“There is no quick and certainly no easy fix for the shortage of teachers,” says Dr. Dagmar Wolf, Senior Vice President Education at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. “That being said, lower levels of bureaucracy could at least alleviate existing staff shortages at schools, for instance by making it easier to hire administrative support staff, teaching assistants, or teachers from abroad. But long-term planning is also a must. Increasing capacity on teacher training programs alone will not be enough to solve the issue. The teaching profession must be made more attractive.”
Behind target: Serious gaps in student learning despite Covid catch-up programs
Echoing the results of previous German School Barometer surveys, schools continue to see a marked gap in student learning for more than one-third of students (according to school principals in November 2022: 35 percent; according to teachers in April 2022: 41 percent). This number even rises to as much as two-thirds of children in schools in underprivileged areas (65 percent). Nearly 80 percent of schools also report being unable to provide all children and adolescents with the necessary learning support. As such, only one-third (32 percent) have seen progress from Covid catch-up programs. Programs were most effective at academic Gymnasium schools (42 percent), while schools in socially deprived areas saw the least improvement (23 percent). Despite the two billion euros made available as support funding, the vast majority of school principals (70 percent) are in urgent need of additional funding
“We fell short of supporting socially disadvantaged children and adolescents in particular – and by a wide margin. This was down to the somewhat ‘scattergun’ approach taken, whereby all schools received funding over a set period of time. The findings from the latest School Barometer leave no doubt here. Against this backdrop, there is a clear argument for needs-based distribution,” explains Wolf. Three-quarters of schools in underprivileged areas (73 percent) record student academic progress as a matter of course. “We need to make better use of this data and analyze past programs for the German government’s planned Startchancen [starting chances] program. The importance of long-term support that guarantees planning security for those involved in schools and educational administration has long been clear,” urges Dagmar Wolf. This is why the Robert Bosch Stiftung has joined forces with the Berlin Social Science Center to launch the Expert Panel on "Startchancenprogramm".
More than half of all schools are no longer able to accept new immigrant students
As of March 2022, the German school system has seen a notable influx of refugee children and adolescents from Ukraine. School principals estimate this figure stands at 2.7 percent of the total number of students (median: seven students per school). The German School Barometer has found, however, that almost exactly the same number of students from other countries also joined German schools in the same period (total share: 2.7 percent; median: five students per school). But unlike for refugee children and adolescents from Ukraine, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK) is yet to publish any figures on these students.
Around half of the schools surveyed have reached capacity when it comes to accepting new students. Schools in socially deprived areas in particular are already operating above capacity (45 percent), with an above-average number of newly arrived students accepted at these schools (Ukraine 3.7 percent; other countries: 5.3 percent of the total number of students).
More detail on the results of the survey can be found on the German School Barometer. These also include additional topics, such as the continuing inadequacy of psychosocial care for children and adolescents, and the high need for additional training for teachers on dealing with children facing psychosocial stress.
About the German School Barometer
Initiated by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the German School Barometer involves a survey of teachers at both general educational and vocational schools in Germany. For the first time, the latest survey addressed exclusively school principals. The representative sample included a total of 1,055 school principals and was carried out between October 31 and November 16, 2022 as an online survey by forsa.