Targets for the number of new trainee teachers in England have been missed for the third year running (Nov. 2015). The official line from the government is that there is no ‘crisis‘ in either teacher recruitment or retention. I will let you decide…..
The government’s position on teacher recruitment:
While teacher recruitment will become increasingly challenging as the economy strengthens, the teacher labour market remains healthy and teaching continues to be an attractive profession. Teachers’ salaries are still competitive.
The government’s position on teacher retention:
We are creating a National Teaching Service (NTS) so that by 2020 there will be 1,500 high-performing teachers and middle leaders in underperforming schools in areas of the country that struggle to attract, recruit and retain high quality teachers.
However, perhaps all is not as upbeat as it seems…..
(1) There are issues with pay:
Teachers pay has been frozen for the past four years, not even increasing with inflation. This amounts to a ‘real term’ pay cut of 15% over the past five years. The most recent 2016/17 1% pay ‘award’ will need to be met from within school budgets, which are already tight. Without any pay award, the teacher pay bill is projected to increase by approximately £565 million to £24.8 billion in 2016/17. This is mainly due to increased employer National Insurance contributions and a projected increase in the workforce size. As a result there will not even be talk of a further pay ‘award’ until 2020. Many graduates are simply not seeing teaching as attractive a career as the adverts suggest; they are increasingly put of by the ever-increasing workload and the fact that they can now earn far more in the private sector. In 2014, one in six teachers in qualified overseas. This is set to rise to two in six for 2016.
(2) There are issues with high staff turnover:
Nearly half of newly qualified teachers leave teaching within the first two years of the job. Excessive workload and stress are cited as the main reasons. At the other end of the spectrum, teachers with years and years of experience are leaving the profession to either take early retirement or to do a less stressful job. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she knew of a teacher who had become a bus driver because they felt “anything was preferable to the lack of quality of life” that came with teaching. Interestingly, the majority of teachers who leave the profession for other jobs are taking substantial pay cuts. Research by the NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) looked at teachers who left for different occupations over the past fourteen years and found that, on average, their pay dropped by 10%, compared with those who stayed in teaching. Some teachers – who left to become teaching assistants or who took up a job in the public sector – saw a drop in their wages of up to 30%.
The fact that teachers are taking lower paid jobs reflects the desperation that many teachers feel. The relentless nature of the workload and pressure is leading to teachers just walking. They can see no way they can remain in teaching and so they lose professional status and money.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Indeed, increasing numbers of teachers leaving the profession year on year has resulted in many schools advertising for teaching jobs ten months in advance as the rush to get ahead in the recruitment race intensifies. The rise of the educational recruitment agency as a business has been one of the biggest growth areas of the last two years in response to this. New figures from the TES show that here was a surge in the number of headteachers pushing out adverts for September, 2016, before the Christmas break, 2015, to ensure that they filled vacancies. As the recruitment ‘crisis‘ bites (but remember, there is no ‘crisis’) many headteachers are being forced to guess the number of staff they will need and advertise before they have received teacher resignation notices or even know their budgets! The average secondary school in England has advertised over 5 post last year; in Milton Keynes alone this figure rises to nearly 15! £733m alone was spent on supply agencies in 2014 and that figure is expected to be closer to £800m for 2015. This has ultimately lead to too many classes in too many schools being taught by too many unqualified teachers. A poor outcome for teachers, pupils and parents alike.
(3) There are issues with the imminent surge in pupil numbers:
Two in five councils in England are not expected to have enough primary school places by this September 2016! A frightening statistic. £7.5 billion has already been allocated by the government to build extra classrooms. In addition to this there will be an extra 800,000 pupils in secondary schools by 2022 – a 10% rise from what we are at now. The simple fact is that we are going to need more teachers. But not enough people are entering the profession (the target was 40,000 for 2015) and plenty are leaving it early. So where are these teachers going to come from? Will we see an influx of teachers arriving from overseas, as we have see with nurses in the NHS over the past three years, or will the requirements required to be a teacher (not substantial in the first place in the UK – here a second class honours degree will suffice whereas in Finland you need to have a first class honours degree and a masters too! ) be lowered even further?
Clearly one thing we can all agree on is that recruiting and retaining good quality teachers is a key issue facing the education system over the next five to ten years. Understanding the types of jobs former teachers are going into and their underlying motivations is going to be crucial for formulating an appropriate policy response.