Tackling school recruitment struggles

Tackling school recruitment struggles

A series of measures have been announced by the education secretary, Justine Greening, which aims to get great teachers into schools. Education Business reports

A range of measures outlined by education secretary Justine Greening are set to improve education and opportunities for all children and young people, as well as encourage more teachers into schools.

As part of the education and skills measures announcement, a total of £30 million will be invested in support for schools that struggle with recruitment and retention, including investment in professional development training, so these schools can benefit from great teaching.

This follows continuous concerns that the number of teachers in classrooms is falling, resulting in a widespread recruitment and retention crisis.

In a bid to get teachers into the classroom, a new pilot student loan reimbursement programme for science and Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) teachers in the early years of their career has been noted in the measures. It will benefit around 800 MFL teachers and 1,700 science teachers each year.

It will see a typical teacher in their fifth year of work benefit by around £540 through reimbursement.

New-style bursaries in maths are also to be trialled, with upfront payments of £20,000 and early retention payments of £5,000 in the third and fifth year of a teacher’s career.

Increased amounts of £7,500 will also be available to encourage the best maths teachers to teach in more challenging schools.


Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, labelled the announcement as a “welcome step in the right direction”.

Whiteman went on to say that these measures are “welcome recognition” that the current recruitment situation is unsustainable and that leaders in eligible schools will welcome any support that “might help them recruit and retain good teachers”.

However, he also stated that unless there is “concerted effort to improve underlying pay levels, working conditions and status within the profession, these steps are unlikely to have much impact”.

He said: “Should these new pilots show early promise, we would urge the government to roll them out to all parts of the country without delay, so that all schools facing staffing challenges might benefit. Meaningful change will not be achieved without real investment. You cannot do better than funding education fully and fairly and treating teachers well and paying them properly.”

Following the government’s £30 million announcement, new research has been conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). It found that London has considerably more teachers leaving the profession compared to other areas.

According to the NFER, this comes at a time when pupil numbers are rising faster in the capital than in any other areas.

The Teacher Retention and Turnover Research: Interim Report, used data from the School Workforce Census to look at the factors associated with teacher retention and turnover. Its findings highlight a need for there to be further research to explore how the geographical flows of trainees into the teacher workforce and during their careers “could increase understanding of the dynamic picture within and across different areas and help to develop policy solutions”.

The report is the latest paper in a programme of major research funded by the Nuffield Foundation to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics within the teaching workforce in England.

A key recommendation of the report is that the government and stakeholders in the secondary sector look urgently at identifying ways to accommodate more and better part-time working in secondary schools to help ease teacher supply challenges.

Following this report, the government has now pledged to introduce new pilot programmes which aim to boost support for flexible working in the teaching profession.

The plans include: a pilot programme to look at how schools are already bolstering the careers of part-time teachers, so recruiting best practice can be shared; a pilot to strengthen the Women Leading in Education coaching offer, so women can continue to get the professional development support they need; and updating existing guidance on flexible working, to help make it easier for schools to know what works.

Commenting on the announcement, Greening said: “The pledges we have made show that we are determined to leave no stone unturned to make the best of all the talent and dedication in the teaching profession.”

Alongside this, the DfE is expected to publish a new myth buster to help answer any questions school leaders may have around recruiting roles with flexible hours. The need to include more part-time or flexible vacancies will also be considered as part of the proposals.

The recommendations also state that the government should look at, as the report found, why the rate of older teachers leaving the profession increased between 2010 and 2015. It should also be explored whether they could be incentivised to stay in the profession a lot longer, “particularly in subjects with specialist teacher shortages”.

NFER’s first working paper of this series reported that some subjects are more affected than others by teachers leaving the profession, with science and modern foreign language (MFL) teachers most likely to leave.

However, the government’s introduction of student loan reimbursement programme for science and Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) teachers may help to reduce the number of teachers leaving in the future.


Commenting on the teacher retention report, Dr Mary Bousted, joint secretary of the National Education Union noted that workload is the “biggest single factor in teachers leaving the profession”. She went on to say that the report “reminds us of the rates of wastage have increased among younger teachers and older teachers alike in the last five years” and that “the government must work with the profession to find solutions to the teacher supply crisis”.

Dr Bousted added: “Fundamentally the government must fund schools properly. Then schools will be able to employ sufficient teachers, pay them a decent wage and invest in CPD and career development to make the profession more attractive. They will not have to deliver teaching on the cheap or be tempted to remove competent older teachers with newly qualified staff. It is damaging to children’s learning that less than half of teachers in England have ten years of more experience.”

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