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Today the Department for Education (DfE) has published its Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, which sets out to address the teacher supply challenges facing the teaching profession.
With rising pupil numbers, shortfalls in the number of trainee teachers and an increasing proportion of teachers leaving the profession, there is an urgent need to ensure there are enough teachers in our schools.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published several pieces of research on this issue, consistently calling for a greater emphasis on retention and not just recruitment. This research in the School Workforce area, including a recent Nuffield Foundation funded Teacher workforce dynamics in England report, helped inform the new strategy.
Carole Willis, Chief Executive, National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said:
“We fully support the measures outlined in the DfE’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy, which echo many of the changes we have been calling for – more opportunities for flexible working, reducing workload, creating a healthier and more supportive working environment, and restructuring financial incentives to promote retention, not just a focus on recruitment. We would just issue a note of caution – is the pace of implementation proposed fast enough to deliver what is needed as pupil numbers in secondary schools continue to rise, and will sufficient funding be made available for delivery of the proposals outlined?
“It is clear we need to encourage more teachers to stay, and offer those who have left teaching the prospect of an exciting, rewarding and manageable career that they want to return to. This will, in turn, undoubtedly make it a profession that new recruits want to be a part of too.”
Jack Worth, NFER’s School Workforce topic lead, added:
“The number of secondary school pupils is forecast to rise by 15% over the next decade, which presents a huge challenge for teacher supply. This is an enormous challenge as the secondary sector has also faced the biggest recruitment difficulties. The number of new trainees has been below the number required by the government for the last six years, especially in key subjects such as maths, MFL and some sciences.
“While it’s true that the system needs to increase recruitment to deal with this challenge, retaining teachers is just as important. Every teacher successfully retained is one less for the recruitment targets, making them easier to achieve. Retention also builds the system’s capacity for high-quality teaching, as inexperience is one of the few factors we know is related to teaching quality.”