Teacher vacancies in the UK are running at almost double the pre-Covid pandemic level, with the sector’s annual recruitment target likely to be missed for the second consecutive year.
A new report by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER), which calls for a long-term strategy on teacher pay, found that the number of teacher vacancies posted by schools, an indicator of staff turnover, was 93% higher in the academic year up to February 2023, than at the same point in the year before the pandemic. The data revealed that vacancies were up 37% compared with 2021/22.
The study pointed to the lack of flexible working opportunities in teaching as one facet of the profession’s lack of competitiveness when it came to attracting recruits.
NFER’s Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2023 warned that recruitment to initial teacher training (ITT) in 2023/24 was likely to be significantly below target. Half of secondary school subjects – physics, computing, design and technology, business studies, modern foreign languages, religious education, music, drama and art and design – were expected to be 20% or more below target.
The only subjects thought likely to hit the recruitment targets were biology, history, classics and physical education.
According to the study, the falling retention rates and historically low teacher recruitment figures showed teaching was lacking in competitiveness compared with other occupations, in both pay and working conditions.
The study found that the gap in real earnings growth between teachers and graduates has widened significantly since the pandemic. Median teacher pay in 2021/22 was 12% lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11. This was 11 percentage points lower for teachers than for similar graduates, a wider gap than before the pandemic.
Further findings from the report show that teachers’ working hours and perceived workload had fallen since 2015/16 but remained higher than for similar graduates. Reducing teacher workload has been a policy objective for government in recent years because high workload was the reason most-often cited for teachers wanting to leave the profession.
The report noted that the lack of availability of home working could represent a threat to the relative attractiveness of teaching.
Jack Worth, NFER school workforce lead and co-author of the report, said: “Schools are being forced to stumble from budget to budget and strike to strike without the help of a clear strategy designed to address a worsening recruitment and retention crisis.
“The 2023 teacher pay award should exceed 4.1% – the latest forecast of the rise in average UK earnings next year – to narrow the gap between teacher pay and the wider labour market, and improve recruitment and retention. This should be accompanied by a long-term plan to improve the competitiveness of teacher pay while – crucially – ensuring schools have the funds to pay for it.”TIOB News