NFER describe teacher recruitment and retention in England in a critical state

The National Foundation for Education (NFER) newly-published sixth annual review of the Teacher Labour Market in England has revealed persisting issues with recruitment and retention, the latter made worse by increased working pressures post Covid-19.

The NFER report describes teacher recruitment and retention in England as  being in a critical state, representing a substantial risk to the quality of education. It also indicates that this year’s applications data suggests significant improvements for the current cycle are unlikely. Additionally, little progress has been made on reducing high teacher workload since the pandemic, which also has a strong impact on retention.

The key findings from the report inlcude: 

Teacher recruitment remains far below targeted levels and leaving rates are likely to increase. ITT applications to February 2024 suggest that 10 out of 17 secondary subjects are forecasted to under-recruit this year. This includes art and design. 

Little progress has been made on reducing teacher workload since the pandemic and the Government may face a challenge in meeting its workload reduction target. Teachers’ working hours significantly increased between 2021/22 and 2022/23. Workload is the main reason why teachers leave teaching and workload reduction has been a policy priority for Government.

Last year’s 6.5 per cent pay rise stalled, but has not substantially reversed, the deterioration in the competitiveness in teacher pay since the pandemic, especially for experienced teachers

The 2024/25 pay award should exceed 3.1 per cent, and be fully-funded, in order to improve the competitiveness of teacher pay.

Remote and hybrid working remains more prevalent in the wider graduate labour market than in teaching. We estimate that teacher pay would have to rise by 1.8 per cent to compensate for this inherent inflexibility.

Secondary ITT recruitment in 2023/24 reached half of its target. But, recruitment to both primary and secondary ITT in 2023/24 was below the target number of trainees that the DfE estimated the school system needed to recruit to meet future staffing needs. 

The number of recruits in some subjects increased last year, likely driven by increases in training bursaries available for those subjects. However, recruitment targets also increased in 2023/24 for all but three secondary subjects. This meant that most secondary subjects under recruited by more than they did in 2022/23, even though some subjects saw an increase in recruits. 

Art and design is set to meet 43% of its recruitment target. 

Leaving rates continue to rise post-pandemic, although less so for recent cohorts of early career teachers.

Forty-four per cent more teachers said they intended to leave teaching in 2022/23 than in 2021/22.

Since 2010/11, teacher pay has fallen significantly in real terms and lagged behind earnings growth in the wider labour market.

Teachers’ working hours increased in 2023 and Government may face a challenge in meeting its workload reduction target.

Despite some improvements since 2015/16, most teachers remain dissatisfied with their workload.

Responding to the report's findings, Michele Gregson, NSEAD said: 

‘Years of neglect and devaluing of our profession are resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis that is deep, wide and tall. As this report shows, we need a series of measures that reflect the high demands asked of every teacher and that the expertise of those who enter it is fully remunerated and recognised.

'In order to ensure our profession attracts and retains a diverse and valued workforce – and to remedy the systemic prejudices and inequities of the subject-specific bursaries system – as a priority policymakers must address retention, workload and wellbeing of all teachers.' 

Read the full report here