House of Commons Library

Teacher recruitment and retention in England

Published Monday, June 4, 2018

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides information on the recruitment and retention of teachers in England, including Government initiatives to increase teacher supply. The briefing also gives an overview of attempts to reduce teacher workload.

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The issue

The overall number of teachers has kept pace with increasing pupil numbers to date, but it has been argued that there are growing signs of shortages, particularly in certain geographic areas and in certain subjects. 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.

Pupil numbers are expected to continue rising, with the number of secondary school pupils projected to increase by 19% between 2017 and 2026. 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.

Government initiatives to encourage teacher recruitment

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 by making the profession more attractive. The initiatives, which are outlined in section three of the briefing, 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, 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.
  • Looking at ways to increase flexible working within teaching 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 piloted initially in Cambridgeshire and the North East with a view to rolling it out nationally by the end of 2018.
  • Committing £84 million up to 2022-23 to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers.
  • Piloting a student loan reimbursement scheme for science and modern foreign languages teachers working in schools in certain local authorities in their third and fifth years of teaching.
  • Using £30 million of funding to invest in “bespoke packages of support” for schools that are facing recruitment and retention challenges.

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 is expected to produce a set of recommendations for the Education Secretary by the end of the summer term 2018.

Section four of the briefing provides more information on teacher workload. Section five briefly summarises selected reports on teacher recruitment and retention that have been published since the start of 2016.

Further information on the training of teachers, including the different training routes and the financial support available to trainees, is available in Library Briefing Paper 6710, Initial teacher training in England.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7222

Author: David Foster

Topics: Schools, Teachers

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