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Teacher supply

Since 2011 the overall number of teachers has in general not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers. This means the ratio of qualified teachers to pupils has increased from 17.8 in 2011 to 19.1 in 2019. In addition, the number of full-time teacher vacancies and temporarily filled posts have both risen over this period.

More recently there has been an increase in initial teacher trainees, likely due to the wider economic impacts of Covid-19. In 2020-21 overall recruitment of initial teacher trainees was 15% above target (6% above target for secondaries and 30% above for primaries). This was the first time the overall target was achieved since 2011‑12 and so is not likely to have reversed shortages which have built up over several years, particularly in certain secondary subjects such as maths and physics which remained below target.

Overall pupil numbers are expected to decrease slightly by 2026, driven by a 7% decrease in nursery and primary pupils which is only expected to be partially offset by a 7% increase in secondaries and increases in other school types. This should alleviate pressure on primary teacher recruitment, however pressures are likely to continue for secondaries and non-mainstream schools. In addition, other factors such as the ambition for more pupils to take the English Baccalaureate combination of GCSE subjects, and the impact of exiting the EU means that overall pressure on teacher recruitment could continue.

Initiatives to encourage recruitment and retention of teachers

There are a number of financial incentives aimed at encouraging recruitment to initial teacher training, including bursaries and scholarships. Since 2018-19 the Government has also been piloting the use of early-career payments for teachers in certain subjects as a means of boosting retention rates.

Other recent initiatives aimed at encouraging teacher recruitment and retention include introducing a teacher vacancy website, which was rolled out nationally in April 2019, and piloting a student loan reimbursement scheme for science and language teachers working in certain local authorities.

Teacher workload

TALIS is a five-yearly international, large-scale survey of teachers, school leaders and the learning environment in schools, administered by the OECD. The most recent survey was conducted in 2018, some of its findings included:

  • Full-time lower secondary teachers in England reported working, on average, 49.3 hours a week. This was above the OECD average of 41 hours a week. The equivalent figure in England in TALIS 2013 was 48.2 hours a week.
  • Full-time primary teachers in England reported working 52.1 hours a week. This was more than in any other participating country except Japan.

53% of primary teachers and 57% of lower-secondary school teachers felt that their workload was unmanageable.

Teacher recruitment and retention strategy

In January 2019, the DfE published a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. The strategy’s central reform is the introduction of Early Career Framework, which will underpin an entitlement to “a fully-funded, 2 year package of structured support for all early career teachers” including 5% funded off-timetable time in the second year of teaching. The Government intends that the Framework will be rolled out nationally from September 2021.


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