Responding to the publication of the OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance 2018’ report, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This report confirms much of what NAHT has repeatedly pointed out: that early years education is vital and needs more funding, and that teachers’ pay and conditions in this country are unfair.
“Early years is the most crucial phase of education. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help. It is therefore obvious that the most cost-effective way to improve educational outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is by investing in early years education.
“Across most of the countries the OECD researched this is being recognised, with public funding for early years on the rise. Sadly, this is not the case in the UK – we have one of the lowest early years funding rates. We need to see extra money for education, including early education before children start school, and renewed investment in critical services for families.
“At the moment, children from the most disadvantaged families are the least likely to access early years education, so the children who most need help are not getting it. Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.
“This report also shows that the teaching workforce in the UK is one of the youngest among all OECD countries, and that starting salaries are below the OECD average. These facts are not unconnected. We have a pipeline leaking at both ends in this country, with crises in both recruitment and retention. Not only has the government missed its recruitment targets year after year, teachers and leaders are leaving the system in droves. Only 60% of teachers working in a state-funded school in England were still there five years after they started training.
“With the OECD showing once again that teachers in this country work longer hours for less money than their international peers, this is hardly surprising. The fact is that teachers’ real average hourly pay has seen a substantial fall of 15% over the last decade. 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 salaries have to be competitive with other graduate professions in order to attract and retain the best people.
“But it’s not all about money. Currently teachers work an average of 54 hours a week and school leaders over 60. And teachers spend a higher share of their time teaching in this country, compared to other countries, with less time allowed for non-teaching duties like pupil support, or for their own CPD. The government needs to urgently address workload levels in the profession.”
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