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Teacher retention and recruitment: what will government investment really mean?

With the recent announcement by the government to provide a raft of new funding for schools, our Resourcing Solutions team look at what impact it could have on the recruitment and retention of teaching staff. 

The words ‘teacher recruitment crisis’ and ‘funding pressures’ have felt over the last five years like they are the only headlines that are associated with the Education Profession. So with the recent schools funding announcement from the Chancellor and the Education Secretary – should schools have cause for excitement or cause for concern?

Overall the headlines look promising – schools will receive an extra £2.6bn next year which will see school funding return to pre-austerity levels. And this comes off the announcement of a three year plan to boost funding by £7.1bn by 2022-23.

The plans will mean:

  • A new minimum level of per pupil spending of £5,000 in secondary and £4,000 in primary schools
  • An extra £700m for pupils with special educational needs
  • Teachers will have a starting salary of £30,000, from 2022-23, to tackle recruitment difficulties
  • £400m extra to support further and vocational education
  • £66m extra for early-years provision

The proposed salary uplift for a teacher starting out in the classroom clearly marks teaching out as a leading career for a graduate or young professional/career changer to go into. This increase of up to £6,000 (25%) firmly cements the DFE’s bid to make the profession more competitive in the graduate labour market amid huge challenges around recruitment across the country. Will it work and is money just the answer?

The funding to cover these rises will still have to come from the school budget hike announced by the government last week. With schools already struggling to manage their diminished budgets will the injection of money possibly create a begging from Peter to pay Paul scenario?

While the planned increase in starting salaries for NQT’s would seem an excellent starting point – the possible knock on considerations are the fact that schools would need to review all of their teachers’ salaries to reflect their positions and experience in relation to the new starting salaries. New teachers in post for 3-4 years could find themselves being paid less that an NQT under the plans.

There is no doubt that any increase in budget directed towards the Education sector is welcome, and this will most definitely help attract students in to the teaching profession, and will help to level out the salary gap between the current starting salary for teachers with competitive graduate careers.

In addition to the proposed increases to new teachers' salaries, trainee teachers will also receive a reformed core training content, which will aim to ensure all new trainees begin their career with high-quality evidence-based training.  This is an essential tool to aid the retention of our teachers, and will help us really evidence that becoming a teacher is a career with longevity – which arguably isn’t how it’s perceived presently. We all agree and understand the power and benefits to employees receiving structured on going CPD and further training within any organisation – especially within the Education sector.

After looking at research and considering the longer term impact - by 2022, most core degree subjects are likely to have starting salaries below £30k.

Even maths and computer science graduates – on average – can expect higher first-year pay if they choose to go into teaching, though this is very likely to be reversed in subsequent years of their careers.

It’s also worth saying that a London weighting will be preserved, on top of the £30k figure – so the pay premium for a London teacher when compared to a typical graduate with the same degree subject will be even greater.

These graduate pay projections are subject to considerable uncertainty. But if the UK enters recession in the next couple of years – as some are predicting – then the first-year pay premium for teachers is likely to be higher, not lower, as a result.

The £30k starting salary represents a marked change in the government’s approach to plugging teacher shortages: away from bonuses targeted at shortage subjects, towards blanket pay increases.

It is hard to begrudge teachers a pay rise, particularly after years of public sector restrain. But it is reasonable to ask whether the initial blanket approach represents the best use of money, and question whether the government should look at the problems as a whole – further considering why teachers are leaving the profession in droves – linked to lack of support, high workload, and lack of career progression/development?

Let’s hope that these decisions will positively improve the recruitment and retention of teachers in what can best be described a National Crisis.

 

Heather Christmas - Resourcing Solutions Business Partner, Delivering Teacher recruitment solutions to Doncaster schools in partnership with the DfE Opportunity Area

James Annetts - Resourcing Solutions Business Partner, Delivering Teacher recruitment solutions to North Yorkshire Coastal schools in partnership with the DfE Opportunity Area