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No clear government plan on recruitment and retention, say school leaders

Today, the National Audit Office publishes a new report which makes the judgement that The Department for Education cannot demonstrate that its efforts to improve teacher retention and quality are having a positive impact and are value for money.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “This report is pretty savage but entirely justified. As the report says, the government cannot get away from the fact that it does not keep data on local supply and demand and cannot show that its interventions are improving teacher retention. As such, the DfE is scrambling around in the dark, wasting money and without a clear plan to tackle recruitment and retention. It’s a national problem. So it needs a national solution.

NAHT has been highlighting the recruitment and retention issue for a considerable amount of time. School leaders responding to our third, annual recruitmensurvey reported that 79% of posts were difficult to recruit to; 62% recruited were filled with a struggle; and respondents were unable to recruit at all to an average of 17% of posts.  

Our data also reveals that:     

  • School leaders are reporting in ever-increasing numbers that their struggle to recruit is caused by the number of teachers leaving the profession. This is increased by a further nine percentage points, being cited by 42% of respondents, after more than doubling between 2014 (15%) and 2015 (33%). 
  • Recruitment difficulties for the main middle leadership roles in schools are pronounced.  For posts carrying a teaching and learning or TLR and Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) responsibility, only 17% of roles were filled with ease; 60% of members reported difficulty in filled these posts, and in 23% of cases the school failed to recruit altogether. 
  • High housing and living costs remain a serious barrier to recruitment in London and the South East, but cost of living is becoming increasingly problematic nationally. There has been a 7% rise in school leaders citing this reason (up from 17% in 2014 and 24% in 2015).  It was the third most common reason schools reported when recruiting NQTs, and remained the fourth most common reason overall.   
  • Difficulty recruiting has meant that 41% of responding schools have had to cover lessons with senior leadership staff, distracting from school improvement. 70% have had to use supply teachers at high cost.

Mr Whiteman continued: “Workload and pay are key issues to solve. Even where schools have the flexibility to pay recruitment and retention allowances to retain and attract staff, the crisis in school funding means that they can’t afford to do this. We are hearing that the government is planning to lift the 1% public sector pay cap. This is essential if we are to address the recruitment crisis we’re currently facing. However, the government must make sure all new pay offers are fully funded. Schools will not be able to honour this pay increase from their existing budgets. Our own research suggests that seven out of ten school leaders say their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

“We need a national strategy for teacher recruitment and retention that recognises teachers as high-status professionals and guarantees enough teachers for every school. It is the government’s responsibility to sort that out.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

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