Teacher retention is and has been a major issue in the UK education system for some time. A report by the House of Commons Committee found there to be a failure to meet teacher recruitment targets over the last decade and the number of teachers leaving the profession is at record levels.
The primary focus to tackle the issue has been to recruit new teachers into the profession. However, recently the government announced that it’s going to do more to improve teacher retention.
This can largely be attributed to a report commissioned by the Department for Education which concluded that 93% of teachers reported that workload in their schools was a “fairly serious problem.” It also found that the average hours that teachers worked at all levels averaged 54.4 hours per week, whilst senior leaders referenced working 60 hours per week. Most teachers reported that 40% of their total hours were completed outside of school hours such as evening and weekends.
Unsurprisingly, workload was cited as one of the main reasons why school leaders thought teachers left their schools. The government has, therefore, announced plans to improve both the workload and the pay of teachers.
The government’s plan to improve retention
Plans published at the end of January by ministers will offer some young secondary teachers a £5,000 booster payment in their third and fifth year. This has been found to be the time when teachers look to leave their posts in search of a new career. The payment is on top of a £20,000 bursary for training.
Additionally, the Autumn budget in 2018 saw a 3.5% increase in pay for many teachers. But pay is not the only initiative outlined in the government’s brief. For the first couple of years, new teachers are being promised more support in training as well a reduced timetable of teaching.
That could see teachers have an extra hour or two per week of protected time, equating to 5% of the timetable for teachers in their second year.
Furthermore, the government is encouraging education bodies to help teachers find a better work-life balance by reducing the demoralising mounds of paperwork and inevitable bureaucracy associated with it.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said, “I think teachers work too many hours – aggravated by unnecessary tasks like excessive marking and data entry, spending more than half their time on non-teaching tasks.”
Actions speak louder than words and a lot will depend on Ofsted delivering on its recent promise not to collect as much data as it used to. Head teachers are encouraged to push back against Ofsted if they believe the demands for paperwork are excessive.
Improving retention could take time and this new initiative may not be the defining factor in solving an ongoing issue. There are many factors that contribute to improving retention. Culture changes in leadership roles as they draw up timetables may help ease the pressure on new teachers.
But of course, retention is only half of the battle. Rising pupil numbers and attractive career paths outside of education increases the need for better recruitment strategies. Targets have been consistently missed over the last 6 years. This is particularly evident in maths, physics and computing where the latter’s was missed by 32%.
That’s part of the reason why Connex set up its innovative employment-based SCITT programme. The paid route into teaching allows high-calibre graduates the opportunity to work in a classroom environment as a trainee teacher while earning a salary. Their PGCE costs are covered by Connex over a two year period, culminating in qualified teacher status (QTS) upon completion of the course.
For schools, it helps them assess trainee teachers over a longer period of time; shaping their teaching style to match their school ethos. Alongside this and other government initiatives to make teaching an attractive career for graduates it is hoped that recruitment and retention will improve across the education sector.