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The government publishes its long-awaited recruitment and retention strategy

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In early 2018, in response to the recruitment and retention challenges facing the teaching profession, the Secretary of State (SoS) confirmed that the Department for Education (DfE) would set out a ‘coherent strategy to improve teacher recruitment and retention’.  The SoS committed to ‘…working with the profession, including unions and professional associations’ to develop a ‘comprehensive’ strategy ‘…which will deliver meaningful improvements.

Recruitment and retention strategy - issues

 The Department has identified four problems that the strategy attempts to address:

  1. The current accountability system can be confusing, which in turn creates extra pressure and unnecessary workload within schools.
  2. Too few early career teachers receive high-quality support, which can result in many leaving the profession. 
  3. Many teachers would like more flexible working patterns and career journeys, but these opportunities can be hard to find within teaching. 
  4. The process to become a teacher is too complicated, which can deter people from applying. 


Recruitment and retention strategy – tackling the current problems

Reforming the accountability system

The new strategy promises to “create a clear and transparent accountability system” and to “radically simplify” the current accountability system, through two main proposals.

1)The first is to make the Ofsted ‘requires improvement’ grade the only trigger for formal intervention (including forced academisation).

  • To support this, the Department has launched a consultation, looking at replacing floor and coasting standards, with Ofsted ‘requires improvement’ judgement becoming the sole trigger for an offer of support from September 2019.
  • The Department will also carry out a wholesale review of the role of teaching schools and existing system leadership designations.
2) The Department will work with Ofsted to drive down workload.



The Early Career Framework (ECF)

A key part of the strategy is the introduction of the Early Career Framework (ECF). The framework is intended to underpin a step change in support for early career teachers, providing a funded entitlement to a structured two-year package of high-quality development. It focuses on five key areas – behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and professional behaviours.

To support the ECF the government has committed to:

  • Funding and guaranteeing 5% off timetable in the second year of teaching for all early career teachers;
  • Creating high-quality, freely available curricula and training materials;
  • Establishing full high-quality ECF training programmes;
  • Funding time for mentors to support early career teachers; and
  • Fully funded mentor training. 

You can read further information about the ECF here.  

The DfE will also be providing financial incentives to stay in teaching, not just to train, widening phased bursaries, which have already been introduced for maths teachers, to other subjects too.


Supporting an offer that remains attractive to teachers throughout their careers

The Department will be introducing specialist NPQs that offer non-leadership career pathways. They will align and build upon the ECF focusing on topics such as assessment, behaviour management, subject and curriculum expertise, and pedagogy. Alongside the rollout of the ECF reforms, the first of these specialist qualifications to be created will be a ‘Teacher Developer NPQ’. 

The government will also be looking at approaches to flexible working. This includes creating a new “find your jobshare” website that will support teachers who are looking for job share partners.


Simplifying the ways into teaching

The strategy proposes to streamline the ways that people can get into teaching, by introducing new digital systems that will make the application process more user-friendly and launching a new “one-stop application system” which will collate all the available initial teacher training opportunities and information about training providers in one place for prospective teachers.

The Department has also committed to a review of the initial teacher training market to spot improvements and reduce costs for providers.


NAHT’s view

NAHT welcomes the government’s focus on recruitment and retention. As our research has shown, too few people are choosing teaching as a career and too many experienced professionals are leaving prematurely.

NAHT has been engaged throughout the development of both the recruitment and retention strategy, and the Early Career Framework and has secured a number of revisions, particularly to the ECF.

The Early Career Framework the government has outlined has the potential to transform the reality of teaching in England. Delivered well, it could help new teachers to build their confidence and hone their skills, providing the foundations for a successful career in teaching, and creating the school leaders of the future.

However, while the individual elements outlined in the strategy could go some way in dealing with the recruitment and retention crisis, there is still much to do more that needs to be done to address the big picture items: accountability, pay, funding and overall workload.

NAHT is continuing to campaign strongly on these areas; you can access our full campaigning work here.  

First published 20 February 2019