Teacher recruitment in schools in ‘critical position’ despite autumn pay rise

Teacher recruitment and retention in England remains in a “critical position” despite a pay rise to school staff in the autumn, analysis has suggested.

The Government should adopt a long-term strategy towards pay to address the teacher supply crisis, according to a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

The analysis, commissioned by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, suggests that increasing teacher pay at a faster rate than in the wider labour market could help to reach teacher recruitment targets in more subjects.

It says schools would need “considerable additional funding” to deliver such pay increases.

The analysis from the NFER said: “Teacher recruitment and retention in England remains in a critical position, despite a significant pay rise of 6.5% in September 2023.”

It added: “Teacher pay is a key Government lever for improving teacher supply.

“However, growth in teacher pay has not kept pace with average UK earnings over the last decade, meaning teachers’ pay is less competitive than it was in 2010/11.”

Last year, teachers in England were offered a 6.5% pay rise for 2023/24.

In March, the Department for Education (DfE) said in evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) that teachers’ pay awards should “return to a more sustainable level”.

NFER researchers said a status quo policy of increasing teacher pay at the same rate as average earnings is “unlikely” to lead to significant progress in addressing teacher supply.

Other approaches – such as targeted financial incentives aimed at shortage subjects and non-financial measures such as workload reduction – could also help retention of teachers, the report said.

“Our analysis shows there are opportunities for improving teacher supply by increasing the competitiveness of teachers’ pay, which would require significant additional Government funding for schools.

“It also demonstrates the chronic underlying challenge of ensuring an adequate supply of physics teachers even under the most generous pay policy, highlighting the need for further targeted measures.”

The Government has yet to publish the recommendations of the STRB for the 2024/25 teacher pay award, or its decision on whether to accept them.

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It should be obvious that you cannot run an education system without enough teachers.

“However, the government has utterly failed to get a grip of this crisis and many schools are struggling to put teachers in front of classes.

“There are critical shortages in maths, science, modern foreign languages and many other subject areas.

“Schools do their best to mitigate the impact on pupils with non-specialist teachers and supply staff, but it is an increasingly impossible situation.”

Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT teaching union, said: “Today’s report provides yet more evidence, if it were needed, that the Government has categorically failed to deliver the measures needed to recruit and retain the teachers the system needs.

“Only by committing to a new deal for teachers will we begin to see the necessary action being taken to boost teachers’ pay and deliver the world-class working conditions that will bring to an end the recruitment and retention crisis that continues to undermine pupils’ education.”

A separate poll, carried out for Teach First, found more than four in five (84%) teachers have spent more time helping pupils with mental health issues over the past academic year, and the education charity said this is contributing to recruitment and retention challenges schools face.

The Teacher Tapp survey, of more than 2,600 teachers in England in April, suggests nearly three in four (72%) teachers believe pay is a major contributor to problems with recruitment.

It also found a lack of flexible working opportunities is a major concern for younger teachers.

A DfE spokesperson said: “There are more teachers now than ever before, with over 468,000 teachers in the workforce, a 27,000 increase on 2010, and 59,600 more teaching assistants since 2011.

“To continue attracting the best and brightest, we offer bursaries and scholarships of up to £30,000 tax-free in the subject areas where they are needed most, including physics and maths, and opening new routes into the profession, such as through Teacher Degree Apprenticeships.

“Last autumn the Government delivered its commitment of a £30,000 starting salary for school teachers in all regions of the country, and starting salaries are even higher in London.

“We are also taking steps to support teachers’ wellbeing and ease workload pressures, including plans to support schools to reduce working hours by five hours per week.”

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