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Trends in teacher supply and retention

In recent years, the overall number of teachers has not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers and the ratio of qualified teachers to pupils has increased from 17.8 in 2011 to 18.9 in 2018. While the recruitment of initial teacher trainees was above target in each year from 2006‑07 to 2011-12, it has been below target in each year since, with wide variations across subjects. In addition, the number of full-time teacher vacancies and temporarily filled posts have both risen since 2011.

Around 42,000 full-time equivalent qualified teachers left the state-funded sector in the 12 months to November 2018, a ‘wastage rate’ of 9.8%. This is the lowest rate since 2013. The wastage rate has ranged from 9.1% (2012) to 10.3% (2015) since the current series started in 2011. 32.3% of newly qualified entrants in 2016 were not recorded as working in the state sector five years later. This is the highest five-year wastage rate on the current series, which dates back to 1997. The rate has been between 25.4% and 32.3% in each year over this period.

Overall pupil numbers are expected to continue rising, driven by a projected 15% increase in the number of secondary school pupils between 2018 and 2024. This, along with other factors, such as the ambition for more pupils to take the English Baccalaureate combination of GCSE subjects, means that pressure on teacher recruitment could increase further in the coming years.

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

Recent governments have highlighted efforts to reduce teacher workload as a means of encouraging teacher retention. In October 2014, the Coalition Government launched the Workload Challenge – a survey asking teachers for ways to reduce workload. A number of initiatives and commitments followed on from this, including the publication of a Workload Reduction Toolkit in July 2018 – a series of online resources to help schools review and reduced workload.

Following the Workload Challenge, the Department for Education (DfE) committed to undertake a survey of teacher workload in English schools in the spring term every two years. The most recent survey was conducted in March 2019, with the results published in October 2019. The survey found that teachers and middle leaders reported working an average of 49.5 hours a week. This was 4.9 hours less than in the previous survey conducted in 2016, but most respondents still felt that they did not have an acceptable workload and could not achieve a good work-life balance.

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 will be rolled out nationally from September 2021, with early rollout from September 2020 in the North East and other selected areas.

Other plans outlined in the strategy include (but are not limited to):

  • Reforming bursaries to a “phased, retention payment approach.”
  • Reforming the accountability system, including consulting on making “requires improvement” the sole trigger for an offer of support – replacing floor and coasting standards – from September 2019.
  • Helping encourage more flexible working in schools, including the launch of a “find your jobshare” website for teachers.
  • The introduction of a “one-stop application service for [initial teacher training]”.

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