The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has voiced fears about the quality of teaching in the profession after research showed falling staff numbers around the UK.
The RCM made a freedom of information (FOI) request to 76 higher education institutions which showed the average age of teachers is getting older as fewer teachers are recruited.
In related research, more than 50% of 45 midwife teachers surveyed by the RCM were found to be 50 or older, while fewer than one in 10 (6%) of midwife teachers are under 40. Finding teachers with recent clinical experience is set to become an even greater challenge for higher education institutions in the years ahead, the RCM warned.
The changes in the age profile of midwife teachers has meant the number of institutions meeting recommendations on minimum class sizes has fallen considerably over the last few years. The Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC) and RCM recommended in 2003 that there should be no more than ten students per teacher.
However, there were 13.5 students for every teacher in 2010, raising fears that the quality of teaching is suffering and new midwives will enter the profession with gaps in their knowledge. In 2009, there 13 students per teacher.
The RCM said a lower ratio allows student midwives to get better support as they learn the challenging skills involved in the profession. As well as getting more intensive help in the classroom, teachers with smaller classes can provide better support during clinical practice.
The freedom of information inquest revealed that many higher education institutions currently have vacancies for midwife teachers. There are an average of 0.5 full-time equivalent vacant teaching posts, with the average vacancy rate at an institution reported to be 5%.
RCM general scretary Cathy Warwick said: “The future of midwifery will be shaped and determined by leadership in education and research today.
“Protecting and nurturing midwifery educators is a major challenge for the whole profession and one that we must all embrace. There needs to be a seachange in the investment and support needed to recruit and retain the next generation of midwifery teachers.”