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Tackling the teacher recruitment crisis and teacher retention crisis

Tackling the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Crisis

Date posted : 02 March 2022

While schools have now weathered the coronavirus storm and returned to a more recognisable normal, more entrenched problems remain. For years, schools have faced a mounting crisis in teacher recruitment and retention that still shows few signs of improvement.

According to new research from Hays, 71% of school employers are finding it hard to recruit permanent staff. This shortage of new blood is compounded by schools’ difficulties in holding onto their existing teachers. In 2020, a record one in six early career teachers left the teaching profession after serving just one year, while an estimated 40% of teachers leave after five years.

Schools face a battle on two fronts: sourcing the staff they need and convincing those in their ranks to stay with them. To overcome these challenges, school leaders need to understand what is driving them. We’ve outlined the prevailing factors that are making teacher recruitment and retention an uphill struggle, and how schools can rise above them.

1. Schools face a shortage of specialists

While filling vacancies is a problem across the board, those difficulties are particularly concentrated in finding staff with certain specialisms. For example, the Hays report finds that 21-22% of schools are encountering major difficulties finding Science or Maths teachers.

Schools’ problems with sourcing specialist workers are not limited to finding those with Qualified Teacher Status. The pandemic’s disruption to education has led to a vast project of remedial instruction. Initiatives like the National Tutoring Programme and the School-Led Tutoring Grant have considerably widened the scope and availability of catch-up tutoring in schools.

This has sent demand for tutors and specialist support staff like wellbeing and behaviour mentors skyrocketing since 2020. Accordingly, 22% of schools surveyed by Hays reported difficulties in finding SEND-qualified educational staff, with 20% bemoaning a lack of specialist teaching assistants.

While the underlying scarcity may not be remedied for several years, schools can develop their competitive advantages by focusing on a recruitment marketing strategy. A canny use of targeted online advertising will improve hiring managers’ prospects of finding those harder-to-reach educators.

Schools may receive applicants whose skills don’t quite fit the bill for that position but could conceivably come in useful at other points. Cultivating a pipeline of educators who can be deployed when the time is right will help schools build resilience and flexibility in their workforce.

2. Different regions are facing different recruitment challenges

Schools’ recruitment difficulties are not created equal. A Sutton Trust report in 2019 found that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities struggle the most to attract talent.

These findings are corroborated by the Education Policy Institute’s most recent research. This shows that schools in disadvantaged areas outside of London are often unable to recruit teachers with a relevant degree in science and maths subjects.

Pupil numbers across the country in 2023 are projected to have risen by 10% in just five years. It seems ominously likely that this problem will only be further magnified in the immediate future.

Regional shortfalls can be partly attributed to uncompetitive salaries for teachers based outside of London versus their peers in other professions. The Prime Minister’s commitment to provide a £3,000 ‘levelling-up premium’ for maths and science teachers in deprived areas may help alleviate this to some extent. Yet schools should still seek to expand their marketing and talent management capacities as much as possible to secure first refusal on the best local talent.

Multi academy trusts have an inbuilt advantage in dealing with this problem. MATs can be more fluid in moving educators around the different schools within their network to meet changing needs.

3. Teacher wellbeing is in decline

Teachers in England are struggling. After two years of exposure to the disruptive effects of the pandemic, morale is wearing demonstrably thin. Tes’s 2022 Wellbeing Report found that less than 40% of school staff feel confident performing their roles. This is a precipitous fall from the equivalent figure of 79% in 2020.

The current teacher retention crisis can be partly explained by the fact that the pressures of the job have become unbearable for many teachers. With 91% of teachers in February 2022 attesting that the job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months, it is hard to imagine retention rates improving in the near future.

Excessive workloads are the driving force behind this downturn in teachers’ general wellbeing. One of the most revealing statistics in the Tes report is that 67% of teachers now claim that their workload has become unmanageable – a rise of 45% since the 2020 survey.

At a bare minimum, Senior Leadership Teams should review their wellbeing policies to ensure that can be done to improve morale is being implemented. But any strategy that doesn’t seek to alleviate teachers’ workloads is unlikely to have any meaningful consequence on the number of teachers leaving the profession.

To stem the brain drain, every school should make use of the DfE’s school workload reduction toolkit. But improving teacher wellbeing may also involve making some permanent changes to how staff are able to work. Let’s look at this in more detail.

4. Employee expectations are changing

In our recent article on the most significant trends facing the education job market, we reported that the education sector has failed to keep up with employee expectations of more flexible working patterns.

Teachers in 2022 are now no strangers to hybrid arrangements like remote working, staggered hours or even jobsharing. Flexibility was something that was forced on schools by the pandemic. Yet leaders should think twice before entirely consigning it to the bad old days of lockdown as we move to a hard-won normality.

Strong evidence is emerging that giving teaching staff more control over their working patterns can make them feel significantly more contented. Even before the pandemic, teachers who had been given the opportunity to work flexibly spoke almost unanimously of improved wellbeing and a better work-life balance.

More schools are starting to come around to the benefits of looser working setups. Yet many SLTs are held back by understandable hesitancies about potentially diluting children’s education or provoking a frosty reception from parents.

There are good reasons why schools might be reluctant to reintroduce remote learning. However, aspects of teachers’ schedules like PPA time, parents’ evening and inset time can be virtualised without affecting pupils’ learning. Teachers should also be given greater opportunities to leave site at lunchtime, or once their daily lessons are complete.

These kind of changes could have the dual effect of shoring up staff morale and making schools more attractive to new talent.

How Teaching Personnel can help you find the right people

To beat the teacher recruitment crisis, schools need partners they can depend on. At Teaching Personnel, we’ve been helping schools find and keep the best talent for over 25 years and counting.

Our Permanent Workforce Resourcing service doesn’t just offer sophisticated online advertising to find even the most specialist candidates. We handle every stage of the hiring process, from shortlisting suitable candidates to managing interview days and handling offers and rejections. Our team has the time and expertise to nurture your unsuccessful candidates as part of a talent pipeline for your school.

Our specialist consultants are also always on hand to offer advice. They can provide guidance on implementing effective policies to improve wellbeing, facilitate new working patterns and boost teacher retention.

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