Priority 4: Recruit and retain teachers


Priority 4: Recruit and retain teachers

  • The government has consistently failed to meet its annual teacher recruitment targets. According to thelatest Initial Teacher Training Census, just 50% of the recruitment target for secondary subjects was achieved in 2023. The target has been met just once since 2012. 

  • There are simply not enough people entering the teaching profession, and the problem is particularly acute in certain subjects. For example, the percentage of the teacher recruitment target achieved in business studies and physics was 16% and 17% respectively.   

  • The government’s review of initial teacher training is set to reduce the number of ITT providers, leading to concerns that this will further reduce the flow of trainee teachers. The focus should be on increasing the number of ITT places, not reallocating existing places.  

  • There is a particular need to boost the number of teacher training places in subjects outside the national curriculum. Sixth form colleges offer a very broad curriculum, but finding teachers in subjects such as economics and law can be incredibly difficult. There is a need to both expand ITT provision and broaden the range of subjects available. 

  • While premium payments are available for newly-qualified teachers in certain subjects, these subjects reflect the government’s priorities rather than the list of shortage subjects in sixth form colleges. Initiatives like the levelling up premium and early-career payments are welcome, but should be extended to cover a much broader range of subjects and not be limited to certain parts of the country. 

  • There is a particularly strong case for prioritising and increasing investment in training bursaries to aid teacher recruitment. As research has shown they are associated with a sustained increase in long-term teacher supply, eligibility for bursaries should also be extended to cover a much broader range of subjects.

  • Although many teachers aspire to work in a sixth form environment, colleges are finding it increasingly difficult to generate a strong field of candidates and make teaching appointments because the general shortage of teachers has become so acute.   

  • Teacher retention is inextricably linked to workload, which is consistently identified as one of the main reasons why teachers leave teaching. The latest data shows that more teachers are leaving the state sector than in any year since records began, and just 59% of teachers are still in the profession ten years after qualifying. 

  • The government’s wider policies have increased teacher workload in sixth form colleges. For example, the ongoing underinvestment in sixth form education means that colleges have been forced to adopt very lean management structures and increase class sizes to remain financially viable, with a corresponding increase in workload for leaders and teachers.  

  • Despite receiving 22% less funding than secondary schools, sixth form colleges have managed to maintain (and in some cases exceed) salary levels in schools. But workload remains at the heart of the teacher retention crisis, and that cannot be addressed without making fundamental changes to the environment in which sixth form colleges operate.       

  • Raising the rate (see Priority 1) is the essential foundation on which to build. This would enable teachers to teach fewer or smaller groups, reducing the burden of marking and their wider workload.  

  • This would also benefit students, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the number of young people with additional support needs. Cuts to NHS and local authority services over the last decade mean that colleges now provide a range of front-line support services to students for which they receive little or no additional funding.  

  • Taken together, this has made it increasingly difficult for teachers to focus on delivering excellent teaching and learning. Providing teachers with more time and a better work-life balance will have a far greater impact on retention than any number of targeted interventions from government.  

To read our full manifesto, with details of our five other priorities, click here.

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