• The recruitment and retention of teachers has been a challenge for some time. More than ever teachers are leaving the profession and statistics show that there are fewer new entrants to the profession. Key subject areas including sciences, maths and computing continue to be hard to recruit for and in this article, we look at some of the areas where schools are facing challenges, and what steps might be taken to address these.

    Teacher recruitment statistics

    The latest data for academic year 2022/23 for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) shows that the total new entrants to ITT is down 20 percent from 2021/22. Secondary schools are harder hit than primary education with only 59 percent of the ITT recruitment target being reached.

    STEM subjects, which include maths and sciences, has faced the biggest teacher recruitment crisis. In 2022/23 physics only managed to recruit 17 percent of the target set by the Department of Education.

    Teacher retention statistics

    Data suggests that the education sector across the UK is not only struggling to recruit but also retain the teachers they already have. This can be attributed to a multitude of reasons including a lack of funding and excessive workloads.

    The Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2023 carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research revealed there were 93 percent more job vacancies in schools in 2022/23 compared to the academic year prior to the pandemic.

    Turnover in schools is therefore high, mixed with the current recruitment challenges. As teachers have more vacancies to choose from it can be difficult for schools to attract the talent they require as the market is so competitive.

    Addressing recruitment and retention is therefore becoming an urgent priority for many schools.

    Teacher workload and mental health

    Aside from the funding issues that have faced the education sector, schools continue to experience considerable issues with teachers’ workload and burnout. This has the knock-on effect of impacting teachers’ mental health. Education Support have reported that in 2022, 59 percent considered leaving teaching due to the strain on their mental health and 68 percent stated excessive workload as the predominant reason for considering leaving.

    With many teachers reportedly working 54 hours a week in an attempt to complete their workloads, it is not a surprise that many schools are taking steps to address their employee’s mental health and work-life balance. The pressures of dealing with an increase in mental health issues amongst pupils is also reported to impact this area, with some teachers indicating they feel inadequately trained to deal with such issues.

    Pay and flexible working for teachers

    Teacher pay continues to remain a contentious issue, and many commentators in the sector agree that over the past decade, teachers’ pay has lost its competitiveness compared with earnings in the wider labour market. Some within the profession are turning to the private sector, including private tutoring, or working for independent schools. The National Foundation for Educational Research are expecting that proposed pay rises for experienced teachers in 2023-2024 will only match the expected growth rate in UK average earnings, rather than exceed it, which may in turn impact on recruitment and retention levels within the education sector. With school budgets already squeezed, funding competitive teacher salaries remains a considerable challenge.

    Schools also face the difficulty of attracting staff in a post-pandemic world where flexible working has become an expectation. With limited scope to work from home, schools are exploring their options and offerings in respect of flexible working, which in many cases sits alongside wider wellbeing policies. The Department for Education has published guidance on the benefits of flexible working in schools, which includes retaining experienced staff and recruiting from a broader pool of teachers.

    Boosting teacher retention

    So how can this retention and teacher recruitment crisis be overcome?

    There is no immediate quick fix here, and although some issues, such as funding, will be outside of the school’s control, there are still steps that can be taken internally to try and improve teachers working environment.

    Implementing a workload and wellbeing policy will be beneficial in tackling the mental health issues. This includes creating a supportive working environment and providing feedback to teachers for them to develop. The policy may include advising staff not to respond to emails outside of the working day, providing internal support for mental health and having realistic expectations.

    Schools can also look at guidance on the Government website from the Department of Education which has a workload reduction toolkit.

    As the recruitment market is so competitive, having such policies and procedures in place and being open to conversations about flexible working are factors that are likely to make a school look more appealing. This in turn will attract higher quality teachers, who are more likely to stay in a supportive environment that encourages work-life balance.


    Further support

    Brachers team of dedicated education specialists offer a full legal, strategic and HR operational support service to schools, academies and educational facilities.

    Find out more about our services for the education sector or for further guidance on the issues covered in this article, book a free 30-minute consultation with our Employment team.


    This content is correct at time of publication

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