Looming recession will boost teacher recruitment (and retention)

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Teacher recruitment is likely to experience a welcome boost caused by the inevitable recession that has been brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

A new analysis from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) says that both recruitment and retention challenges could be eased in the coming months.

It predicts that around 1,800 more graduates could go into initial teacher training (ITT) programmes in the next two years, which would be enough to reduce recruitment shortfalls by between 20 and 40 per cent each year.

The EPI analysis also predicts that thousands of teachers will remain at the chalkface when they might otherwise have quit.

The basis of the EPI’s predictions is the Bank of England’s forecast that unemployment will peak at nine per cent this year and will remain high until 2022. The analysis draws comparisons with the recruitment boost seen in the profession after the 2008 financial crash.

The report states: “Young people who graduated during the financial crisis were less likely to find a job and those who found a job were typically paid less. Occupations such as teaching, whose need for workers is largely unaffected by a recession, become relatively more attractive. As jobs dry up and wages fall, graduates are drawn to the job security and stable wages of teaching.

“If we assume that Covid-19 affects graduates in a similar way to the 2008 crisis, but is less persistent, then we would expect roughly 1,800 more graduates to become teachers over the next two years.

“While this increase might seem modest compared to the 30,000 graduates who enrol into teacher training each year it is important to remember that policy-makers have missed recruitment targets by nearly 3,000 places in recent years. Covid-19 could reduce recruitment shortages by between 20 and 40 per cent each year over the next two years.”

If the predictions are true, the boost will also help mitigate the impact of the huge increase in secondary pupil numbers, which are predicted to grow by a further 11 per cent between 2018/19 and 2023/24.

Furthermore, the latest UCAS data, from May, suggests that the boost in teacher numbers might have already started after a spike in applicants. However, the EPI analysis expects the main boost to happen during the 2020/21 round.

The analysis comes a week after evidence that teacher retention in 2018/19 continued to be hit by a triple whammy of pressures: rising secondary pupil numbers, shortfalls in the number of trainee teachers, and an increasing proportion of teachers leaving the profession.

A study from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) warned that retention rates of NQTs and second-year teachers have continued to fall despite overall teacher retention having improved slightly, although not enough to off-set missed ITT targets (Worth, 2020).

Elsewhere, the EPI also points to emerging evidence showing that the number of teacher vacancies being advertised has fallen by around 3,000 year-on-year during the March 16 to May 1 period.

It states: “A recent survey of teachers (see Hannay, 2020) found that 14 per cent of respondents said that they had had second thoughts about changing jobs because of Covid-19. As more than 36,000 classroom teachers leave teaching each year, even a modest effect on attrition (e.g. a reduction five per cent) will have a large effect on the number of teachers in the school workforce (1,800).”

The EPI is now recommending that the government support schools by giving them “financial certainty to recruit new teachers where they are needed”.

It also says that retention measures such as £2,000 payments to early career teachers in shortage subjects and doubling extra payments for working in challenging areas could be particularly effective right now.

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