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Teacher supply

In general, over the past decade the overall number of teachers in state-funded schools has not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers. This means the pupil to teacher ratio (number of pupils per teacher) has increased from 17.1 in November 2010 to 18.0 in November 2022. In addition, the teacher vacancy rate has risen over this period.

Postgraduate teacher training recruitment

Overall, postgraduate teacher recruitment as measured by the Initial Teacher Training census was below target in academic year 2023/24 (38% below target). This was mainly driven by low recruitment for secondary trainee teachers (50% below target compared to 4% below target for primary trainee teachers).

Across primary and secondary combined, performance against the postgraduate ITT target was 8 percentage points lower than in the previous year, 2022/23.

The postgraduate teacher recruitment target has only been achieved once since 2015/16. This was in 2020/21 when recruitment was 11% above target. Recruitment also remained relatively high in 2021/22 and was only slightly below target (3% below target). The relatively high recruitment in 2020/21 and 2021/22 was likely due to temporary pandemic related factors.

Recruitment for some secondary subjects is consistently much lower than the average, in particular physics (83% below target in 2023/24), design and technology (73% below target), modern foreign languages (67% below target), and computing (64% below target).

Initiatives to encourage recruitment and retention of teachers

There is a suite of financial incentives aimed at encouraging recruitment to initial teacher training, including bursaries and scholarships.

Since financial year 2018-19 the Government has 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 professional development opportunities, introducing a teacher vacancy website, which was rolled out nationally in April 2019, and a targeted student loan reimbursement scheme.

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, and 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 was the introduction of the Early Career Framework, which underpinned 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 Framework has been in place nationally since April 2022.

On 20 March 2023 the Education Committee launched an inquiry into teacher recruitment, training and retention. Its scope included the effectiveness of the DfE strategy. The inquiry’s report is due to be published in 2024.  

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