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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 (improved) 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.

Postgraduate teacher recruitment

Postgraduate teacher recruitment as measured by the Initial Teacher Training census was below target in academic year 2022/23 (29% below target). This was mainly driven by low recruitment for secondary teachers (41% below target compared to 7% below target for primary teachers).

This followed relatively high recruitment in the previous two years likely due to pandemic related factors.

The postgraduate teacher recruitment target was only 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).

Recruitment for some secondary subjects is consistently much lower than the average. In particular physics (83% below target in 2022/23), design and technology (75% below target), and computing (70% below target).

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 in place nationally since September 2021.

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