Recruitment, Retention and Retirement – The 3 ‘R’s of the Teacher Workforce  

As a provider of initial teacher training and leadership recruitment services, we regularly pay close attention to the three ‘R’s driving the size of the teaching workforce: recruitment, retention and retirement.

As the economy recovers and students count the cost of university tuition fees, recruitment into initial teacher training paints an alarming picture. Figures released from UCAS last month point to a 23% decline in the number of applicants into ITT compared with the same period last year. This is on the back of a recruitment shortfall of around 5,000 trainees in the past three years. If the current trend continues for 2015, the cumulative shortage will rise to just under 10,000 teachers, or 2% of the entire teaching workforce.

Figures on teacher retention paint an equally gloomy picture. The latest data from the DfE show that the full-time teacher wastage rate (the percentage of the teaching population leaving the profession each year) has risen above 10% and by more than two percentage points in the past five years, or an increase of 10,000 teachers per annum.

It is therefore hardly surprising that two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders highlighted that it is now more difficult to recruit than it was last year.  The same survey identified that 44 per cent of participating schools had vacancies in English; 52 per cent in maths; and 50 per cent in science.

Furthermore, the demographics-led retirement of head teachers and lack of suitable candidates to replace them provides little comfort to the growing teacher supply crisis. The percentage of all primary heads within just five years of the official retirement age is 21% and this comes at a time when 26% of all primary headship vacancies need to be re-advertised, according to a recent report by the Policy Exchange. This is the highest rate since 2000 

Of course teacher supply is just one side of the equation. What about the demand for teachers? Whilst many factors play a part, by far the most important is the number of pupils, and this is currently rising for primary and about to rise for secondary schools due to demographic shifts. The latest projections from the DfE suggest 9% growth in the number of primary pupils and 11% for secondary pupils by 2020. Assuming pupil / teacher ratios remain constant, a further 40,000 teachers will be needed in five years’ time, or just under 10% of the current workforce.

It appears increasingly likely that the gap between supply and demand will continue to be met by supply teaching agencies and this poses a budget risk for schools. Educate works with school business managers to address this challenge, and alternatives do exist to maintain maximum flexibility for staffing needs whilst keeping fees under control.

We would also recommend two other courses of action as the effects of this crisis take hold. Firstly, if the odds of successful recruitment are falling, then it doesn’t pay to take a passive approach to this important task. Rather than choosing an advert in a teaching publication, active search is potentially a more cost-effective approach. Colleen Bower, our Recruitment Director, explains more [here].

Secondly, very often the teaching talent you desire is already within your school. There are currently 240,000 Teaching Assistants employed by schools, many with the requisite skills, qualifications and ambition to become teachers. At Educate Teacher Training we regularly take outstanding TAs and train them to become outstanding teachers. Furthermore, they can remain within your school throughout their training at no cost to the school. We still have places available for this September so if you would like to know more, please contact Julie Kitchen.

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