Recruitment and retention: The most deprived schools hit hardest

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

After catastrophic teacher recruitment figures are revealed, a new analysis shows that schools with high levels of free school meals have higher teacher attrition, higher teacher vacancies, and spend much more money on supply.

A new “data dashboard” has been published offering information on a number of teaching workforce indicators to help understand the supply challenges facing English primary and secondary schools.

It shows just how hard schools in the most deprived areas are having to work to recruit and retain staff.

The new tool comes shortly after the latest initial teacher training (ITT) figures revealed that 13 out of the 17 secondary subjects and primary education failed to meet their teacher recruitment targets (DfE, 2022).

In total, 2022/23 has seen 23,224 entrants to ITT against a target of 32,600 – just 71% of the total required.

Broken down by phase, we have recruited 10,868 primary teachers against a target of 11,655 (93%) and 12,356 secondary teachers against a target of 20,945 (59%).

The data dashboard, meanwhile, has been compiled by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) with funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

It draws on data from the government’s school workforce census as well as other sources including school-level expenditure and provider-level ITT data.

The data is broken down by local authority, Parliamentary constituency, school type, and academic subject, offering insights into retention, recruitment and teacher shortages, including comparing regional data with national averages.

Searching the dashboard for pupil deprivation in 2020, it reveals that the schools with the highest levels of free school meals (FSMs):

  • Have more teachers quitting the chalkface and leaving education (attrition).
  • Have more early career teachers quitting the chalkface within the first five years.
  • Have more teachers leaving their school for another post.
  • Have more teacher vacancies or posts that are only temporarily filled.

The most deprived schools are also spending substantially more per-pupil on supply teachers. In 2020, they spent more than £120 per-pupil compared to under £60 in the least deprived secondary schools and around £80 in the least deprived primaries.

The tool also shows that children from secondary schools with high proportions of FSMs are also more likely to be taught maths and science by teachers who do not have a relevant undergraduate degree.

The NFER’s school workforce lead, Jack Worth, said: “The data dashboard … will support local and national decision-makers to take action to address teacher shortages in areas struggling the most.”

It comes after the ITT census revealed concerning shortfalls in key secondary subjects, not least computing, design and technology, geography, MFL, and physics. Indeed, STEM subjects as a whole only recruited 4,000 teachers against a target of about 7,500 and only four subjects overall hit target (classics, drama, history, PE).

Teachers wanted: Postgraduate ITT new entrants and percentage of ITT recruitment target reached by subject or phase for 2022/23 (source: DfE, 2022)

Commenting on the figures, Mr Worth added: “Not enough teachers are entering teacher training across a large range of secondary subjects to meet the need for future teachers.

“Thirteen out of the 17 secondary subjects, as well as primary, failed to meet their recruitment targets. The ITT system attracted less than half (44%) of the science teachers required to meet schools’ supply needs, which will exacerbate existing shortages in this key subject.

“Teacher recruitment and retention will remain a key challenge for the education system for the foreseeable future, unless radical action is taken to address the most pressing underlying challenges, such as pay and workload.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, added: “Too few graduates are choosing to train to be a teacher and too many teachers are choosing to leave the profession. This has created serious staffing gaps for schools right now, but it will also undermine the quality of education for the next generation.

“The government must address the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching. This requires them to give teachers a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise. It’s vital too that government makes teaching more appealing, and this includes tackling excessive workload and giving much more support to schools in deprived areas.

“Schools with higher levels of deprivation are much more likely to be given a low Ofsted rating and this is driving teachers away from those schools and from the profession generally.”

James Zuccollo, director for school workforce at the Education Policy Institute think-tank, said: “It’s now clear that teaching’s heightened popularity during the pandemic was short lived. This decline in popularity raises questions over the government’s decision to cut retention payments during the pandemic.

“It’s also clear that certain subjects were more affected than others, a likely result of graduates finding more competitive pay in occupations other than teaching. This is most seen through widespread failure to meet recruitment targets in STEM subjects.”

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