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Teacher supply

In general, over the past decade or so the overall number of qualified teachers in state-funded schools has not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers. This means the pupil to teacher ratio (number of pupils divided by number of qualified teachers) has increased from 17.6 in November 2010 to 18.5 in 2021. In addition, the teacher vacancy rate has risen over this period.

However, in recent years these measures have either declined or remained stable. This is likely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the labour market. It is not clear how long this impact might last.

There has also recently been an increase in the number of initial teacher trainees (ITTs). In academic year 2021/22 overall recruitment of ITTs was 1 percentage point above target (36 percentage points above target for primary school teachers and 18 percentage points below for secondary teachers). In the previous year the overall ITT target was also above target (by 11 percentage points). However, this is not likely to have reversed shortages which have built up over several years, particularly in certain secondary subjects such as physics which remained below target in both 2020/21 and 2021/22.

Provisional estimates for teacher supply for 2022/23 indicate that the primary school teacher target will be met but the secondary school teacher target will be 34 percentage points below target. These estimates should be treated with caution as they are based on incomplete data.

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 Framework has been nationally from September 2021.


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