A recruitment and retention crisis in Art and Design

The meeting of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education on the 21 November heard from organisations and individuals who are bringing their voices to the ongoing campaign to challenge education policy that has had a negative impact on art and design education. NSEAD General Secretary Michele Gregson spoke about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis and the impact it is having on our subject, which we have published below.

The Art Now Inquiry report sets out very starkly that our subject specialists are not feeling valued. At all stages of their careers, they are negatively impacted by a lack of investment. Schools in England are experiencing an unprecedented crisis of teacher recruitment and retention. Teachers are leaving and not being replaced.

On 13 November 2023 Teacher Tapp reported to the Education Select Committee some worrying statistics from their most recent surveys. They found: 

'When asked if they would leave teaching if they could find another job on the same salary, 61% agreed and 25% strongly. In 2019 it was only 50% and 15% strongly.

When asked if they could go back to the start of their careers, would they still train in their chosen jobs, back in 2018 the proportion of teachers saying "certainly, yes" was already low at 42% but has now dropped to just 23%.' 

Teacher Tapp reports that there appears to have been a distinct disillusionment and change in attitudes since before the pandemic which are likely to affect retention and may also affect recruitment. Only 59% said they expect to be a teacher in three years' time. This is down from a stable figure of around 75% before the pandemic. This marked decrease signals a deep-seated problem within the profession. 

In July, according to the DFE’s data, the number of teacher vacancies for art and design rose this academic year to the highest level recorded since 2011, and the reported ‘rate of vacancies’ in art and design rose from 0.4 in 2021/22 to 0.7 in 2022/23. 

We know that the Art Now Inquiry survey found in 2022 that levels of dissatisfaction amongst art teachers were even higher than those reported by the profession as a whole. If that trend continues, the deep-seated problem highlighted in the Teacher Tapp evidence may be even worse for our teachers.

Teacher Tapp also found that teachers who are most confident with their subjects feel more attached to their job. When teachers must take classes in multiple subjects, especially ones that they are unfamiliar with, it may undermine attachment. Science, PE and arts teachers are most likely to be in this position. If shortages mean teachers are forced to cover increasingly diffuse timetables then there is a risk these groups become even more likely to want to leave. 

Early Career teachers do not feel supported by the Early Career Framework (ECF) which started in September 2021. Teacher Tapp found that many didn't like the materials and training they received from the ECF. Indeed, 9% of ECTs said the materials didn’t focus enough on their specific subjects, weren’t helpful for different situations, and weren’t very interesting or easy to use. NSEAD introduced our ‘Mind The Art Gap’ programme for this very reason, to address subject-specific needs, but we are very aware that there is no time being made available for ECTs to take on additional CPD.

This is the context that we need to keep in our minds as we consider the position of our ITE trainees. We are losing experienced teachers and our ECTs are being overloaded by a framework that was intended by the DFE to support and encourage retention.

So, teachers are leaving – how is recruitment going? DFE transparency data tells us that overall, the PGITT secondary target has not been met since 2012/13, except in 2020/21. This year (2022-23) 59% of the PGITT target was achieved in secondary subjects (compared to 79% in 2021/22). the figures for 2023-24 are predicted to be even lower.

For many years, art and design has recruited well, in comparison to other subjects. In 2019 this dipped to a worrying 62% of the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) target being met. NSEAD’s campaign for a bursary for our trainees was successful at that point, and we saw an increase over the next two years, recruiting above the TSM target. The bursary was withdrawn after just one year. Last year we saw a reversal, with a 10% shortfall. This year, current estimates suggest that we have dipped to just 51% of the target number of trainee teachers for 2023-24.. 

After years of being an attractive, popular career option, the position of Art and Design looks set to be worse than the average across all subjects. In July, NSEAD and the APPG chairs wrote to Gillian Keegan to set out these concerns. Following this, in September, it was announced that Art and Design trainees would once again get a bursary – next year. Whether this will be sufficient to reverse this catastrophic shortfall remains to be seen. 

How does that make the cohort who started courses this year feel? I speak to many trainee teachers, and I can tell you how they feel — they feel that they are not valued. They feel angry, disillusioned, cheated. They ask: why must they work two or three jobs on top of their training, where they work long hours in schools, just to survive, when their peers don’t? 

This APPG has heard evidence previously from trainees about the impact this has on their well-being and financial security. The trainees of September 2023 face a cost of living crisis, paying to train, and an additional 10 years of student debt repayments following the changes to student loan repayment thresholds this year. NFER research finds that bursaries are an effective tool to increase both recruitment and retention if they are consistently applied.

We are calling for the Government to take action to show that they value all teachers, and that they value deep specialist knowledge. We want to see the bursary instated as a universal entitlement for future trainees, but we also call on them to recognise that the plight of the 2022 and 2023 cohort must be addressed, if we are to retain these teachers beyond 2025.

This is a crisis. It cuts even deeper for our community of art and design teachers, and there must be action.


Addendum: The Initial Teacher Training Census, published after this presentation, December 2023 and for the year 2023-24, shows that the percentage of the ITT recruitment target reached for art and design  was as low as 44%.