Commenting on a new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) out today (Monday 2 March) looking at teacher shortages, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“This is a very worrying report. It highlights teacher shortages in exactly the places they are most needed. In secondary, even as secondary school pupil numbers are rising sharply. And in schools with the highest numbers of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – exactly the children who most need the very best teachers.
“The government has recently made several attempts to improve teacher recruitment, with the Early Careers Framework and an increased starting salary. This is welcome. But they are failing to pay equal attention to the other side of the equation – teacher retention. More and more teachers are leaving the profession, as workload, accountability and the funding crisis take their toll. This means all the efforts to increase the numbers of new recruits ultimately fails to increase overall teacher numbers.
“Instead it means that the UK has one of the least experienced teaching workforces in the world. More than a third of all teachers have less than 5 years’ experience. And this report shows that disadvantaged schools, having the hardest struggle to recruit, have the most inexperienced teachers. Again, the pupils who most need the very best teachers are the ones losing out.
“This inexperience also has a real impact on school leadership. Fewer teachers are finding a long-term teaching career viable and so fewer are aspiring to leadership. At the same time, leaders and senior teachers are not seeing the same pay increases as newer teachers, with inflation matching pay rises at best. Experienced teachers and those stepping up to take on increased responsibility are not being properly rewarded.
“If the government is serious about tackling the teacher shortage crisis and ensuring there are enough great teachers for every school, they must pay as much attention to retention as to recruitment.
“Teachers are graduates who have many career choices open to them. They go into teaching with passion, because they care and want to make a difference. But more is needed to create a truly positive proposition for a long-term career in teaching. The essential components include competitive pay, attractive and flexible working conditions, a healthy work-life balance, opportunities for career-long continuing professional development, and lower risk ways of holding schools to account. Ultimately it is very simple: pay people properly and treat them well.”
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