More teachers are leaving before retirement than five years ago

The Department for Education cannot show that its efforts to improve teacher retention and quality are having a positive impact, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

A report by the NAO found that more teachers are leaving before retirement than five years ago, and schools are finding it difficult to full posts with the quality of teachers they need.

In 2016, 34,910 teachers left for reasons other than retirement and a NAO survey shows that 67 per cent of school leaders reported workload as a barrier to teacher retention.

According to the NAO survey of school leaders, schools filled only half of their vacancies with teachers with the experience and expertise required, and in around a tenth of cases, schools did not fill the vacancy at all.

There are also regional variations in the supply of teachers, with the North East having the lowest proportion of schools reporting at least one vacancy (16.4 per cent of secondary schools), while Outer London (30.4 per cent) and the South East (26.4 per cent) had the highest.

However, the NAO report also found that a greater number of qualified teachers are returning to state-funded schools, and the Department and schools have scope to attract back, even more, teachers who have left and benefit from the investment made in their training.

In 2016, 14,200 teachers returned to work in state-funded schools, an increase of 1,110 on 2011.

Schools have also reported time and cost as barriers to improving teacher quality.

For example, a survey found that England spent four days a year on professional development in 2013, compared with an average of 10.5 days across 36 other countries.

NAO head, Armyas Morse, commented: "Schools are facing real challenges in retaining and developing their teachers, with growing pupil numbers and tighter budgets. The trends over time and variation between schools are concerning, and there is a risk that the pressure on teachers will grow.

“Since having enough high-quality teachers is essential to the effective operation of the school system, these are issues that the Department needs to address urgently."

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