There is increasing evidence of a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention just as the number of pupils and the demand for new teachers begins to increase sharply. In July 2018, the DfE reported that the number of children enrolled in state schools would increase by 355,000 within the next five years.
Excessive workload and attacks on pay are driving away teachers and deterring new recruits.
In July 2018, the School Teachers’ Review Body stated that: “Last year saw a further deterioration in both recruitment and retention. The Government’s overall target for recruitment to postgraduate initial teacher training (ITT) was missed in 2017/18 for a sixth successive year.” It added that: “The numbers of vacancies and temporarily filled posts in schools and of teachers resigning from the profession have also continued to increase. These trends are particularly concerning as demand for teachers is expected to rise considerably over the next decade, particularly in secondary schools, as a result of increases in pupil numbers.”
The STRB went on to state that: “The decline in the position of the teachers’ pay framework in the labour market for graduate professions needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. With the prospects for wage growth in the wider economy better than for several years, a significant uplift to teachers’ pay is required to forestall a further weakening in the competitive position of the teaching profession.”
In January 2018, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that: “The Department [for Education] has failed to get a grip on teacher retention”’ adding that this failure, “puts additional pressure on schools faced with rising numbers of children needing a school place and the teachers to teach them”. The PAC went on to say that the DfE “does not have a coherent plan to tackle teacher retention and development”.
Initial Teacher Training (ITT) figures for 2017/18 show that the Government recruited only 90% of the Teacher Supply Model target. The overall contribution to the secondary target was just 80%, meaning nearly 4,000 places went unfilled. This is a significant decline in recruitment since the previous year, when the contribution to the secondary target was 87% (2,228 places unfilled).
Since 2015/16, ITT figures have included applicants for Teach First, who were previously excluded from these statistics. This boosted the overall figure for 2017/18 by over 1,000 applicants. Despite the inclusion of Teach First applicants in the ITT statistics, the overall TSM target was not met, for the fifth year in a row.
In 2017/18, the only subjects where the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) recruitment target was met were history and PE. All other secondary subjects were under-recruited, and some significantly so. For instance, maths recruited just 79% of the required number of trainees, physics 68% and computing 66%.
A survey by the former NUT of leadership group members carried out in March 2016 found that nearly three quarters (73%) of school leaders were experiencing difficulties in recruiting teachers, with 61% saying that the situation had got worse (42%) or much worse (19%) over the last year. The greatest problem areas were in Maths (36% of schools leaders were struggling to recruit in this area), science (34%) and English (23%).
DfE statistics highlight the increasing number of teaching posts that schools are not able to fill permanently. In November 2017 there were 944 teacher vacancies and 3,046 temporarily filled posts where a vacancy existed.
Whilst schools are struggling to fill vacancies, large numbers of pupils are being taught by teachers who do not have a relevant qualification in the subject. For instance, in 2017 only 62% of physics teachers and 75% of chemistry teachers held a relevant post-A Level qualification in the subject. For maths and English, these figures were 78% and 81% respectively.
Retention is as big a problem as recruitment. DfE figures show that, in the 12 months to November 2017 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), over 50,000 qualified teachers in England left the state sector, equivalent to one in ten teachers leaving the profession.. The number of teachers leaving as a proportion of the total number of teachers in service, known as the ‘wastage rate’, is 10.5 per cent. The same figures reveal that more than 100,000 potential teachers have never taught, despite finishing their training.
A report published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) in August 2018 found that just 60% of teachers were working in state funded schools in England five years after starting training. This five-year retention rate was even lower for high priority subjects such as physics and maths, where it was just 50%.
The EPI report also showed that since 2010, the pupil:teacher ratio had risen from 15.5 to around 17, because the Government had not recruited enough teachers to account for pupil increases.
A survey of over 8,000 NEU members, published in 2018, found that a massive 81% had considered leaving the profession in the last year because of workload pressures.
The Government can ill-afford to lose valuable teachers at any time, but especially not in the present context of sharply rising pupil numbers. Securing teacher supply for the future and preventing teacher wastage requires action to ensure teaching remains an attractive profession for graduates, in particular by offering professional levels of pay and by reducing workload.