House of Commons Library

Teacher recruitment and retention in England

Published Tuesday, February 12, 2019

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides information on the recruitment and retention of teachers in England, including the Government's recently published Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. It also gives an overview of attempts to reduce teacher workload.

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Trends in teacher supply

In recent years, the overall number of teachers has not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers and the ratio of qualified teachers to pupils has increased from 17.8 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2017. While the recruitment of initial teacher trainees was above target in each year from 2006‑07 to 2011-12, it has been below target in each year since, with wide variations across subjects. In addition, the number of full-time teacher vacancies and temporarily filled posts have both risen since 2011.

Overall pupil numbers are expected to continue rising, with the number of secondary school pupils projected to increase by 15% between 2018 and 2025. This, along with other factors such as the Government’s ambition for more pupils to take the English Baccalaureate combination of GCSE subjects, means that pressure on teacher recruitment could increase further in the coming years.

Initiatives to encouraging recruitment and retention of teachers

There are a number of financial incentives aimed at encouraging recruitment to initial teacher training, including bursaries and scholarships for trainees in certain subjects. In addition, recent Governments have undertaken a range of initiatives aimed both at increasing the recruitment of new and returning teachers, and at improving the retention of existing teachers. The initiatives include (but are not limited to):

  • A range of measures aimed at training and upskilling an additional 17,500 maths and physics teachers by 2020.
  • The Returning Teachers Pilot, launched in September 2015, aimed at improving teacher recruitment in English Baccalaureate subjects in hard to recruit areas. A second pilot, the Returners Engagement Programme Pilot (now referred to as the Return to Teaching Pilot), was launched in November 2016.
  • A National Teaching Service to place teachers in underperforming schools in areas that struggle to recruit teachers. The plans were not taken forward following a pilot.
  • Attempts to increase the recruitment of teachers from overseas.
  • Encouraging flexible working as a way to boost retention.
  • Introducing early-career retention payments for maths teachers in their third and fifth year of teaching.
  • Strengthening qualified teacher status and attempting to enhance teachers’ continuing professional development and career development opportunities in order to improve the attractiveness of teaching as a profession.
  • Introducing a national teacher vacancy website. This is being rolled out gradually, with a view to it being available nationally by March 2019.
  • Committing £84 million up to 2022-23 to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers.
  • Piloting a student loan reimbursement scheme for science and language teachers working in schools in certain local authorities in their third and fifth years of teaching.

Teacher recruitment and retention strategy

In January 2019, the DfE published a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. The strategy’s central reform is the introduction of Early Career Framework, which will underpin an entitlement to “a fully-funded, 2 year package of structured support for all early career teachers” including 5% funded off timetable time in the second year of teaching.

Other plans outlined in the strategy include (but are not limited to):

  • Reforming bursaries to a “phased, retention payment approach.”
  • Reforming the accountability system, including consulting on making “requires improvement” the sole trigger for an offer of support – replacing floor and coasting standards – from September 2019.
  • Helping encourage more flexible working in schools, including the launch of a “find your jobshare” website for teachers.
  • The introduction of a “one-stop application service for ITT”.

Teacher workload

The current and past governments have also highlighted efforts to reduce teacher workload as a means of encouraging teacher retention. In October 2014, the Coalition Government launched the Workload Challenge – a survey asking teachers for ways to reduce workload. A number of initiatives and commitments followed on from this, including:

  • A new Department protocol for changes to accountability, curriculum and qualifications was published in March 2015 setting out Government commitments in response to the Workload Challenge. The Protocol was last updated in February 2017.
  • Three workload review groups were formed in October 2015 to look at the issues that teachers said caused the most bureaucracy. The groups’ reports were published in March 2016.
  • In January 2017, funding was announced for eleven schools to carry out research projects “into efficient and effective approaches which reduce unnecessary workload.”
  • A large scale survey of teacher workload was conducted in February 2016. The survey report was published in February 2017 and included the finding that teachers in England reported working an average of 54.4 hours a week.
  • The creation in May 2018 of a Workload Advisory Group to consider how to remove unnecessary workload associated with data and collection for assessment in schools. The Group published its recommendations, which the Government accepted, in November 2018.
  • The publication of a Workload Reduction Toolkit in July 2018 – a series of online resources to help schools review and reduced workload.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7222

Author: David Foster

Topics: Schools, Teachers

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