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Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Volume 633: debated on Monday 11 December 2017

Teacher numbers are at an all-time high: there are 15,500 more teachers than there were in 2010; postgraduate recruitment is at its highest level since 2012-13; and in 2015-16 we welcomed back 4,200 teachers into the classroom, which is an 8% improvement on the 2011 figure. However, we are absolutely not complacent; we continue to invest in teacher recruitment and are actively addressing the issues that teachers cite as a reason for leaving the profession.[Official Report, 18 December 2017, Vol. 633, c. 3MC.]

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but I draw her attention to the situation in my constituency and the evidence from the School Teachers’ Review Body, which has stated that there is

“a real risk that schools will not be able to recruit and retain a workforce of high quality teachers to support pupil achievement.”

It says that is particularly the case given the predicted increase in pupil numbers. What action have the Government taken to address teacher recruitment and retention? Will she meet me and local heads to discuss this matter?

Retention rates are broadly stable over a 20-year period. In fact, the overall vacancy rate for all teachers is about 0.3%. The hon. Gentleman asks what we are doing on the quality of the people coming into teaching, and I can tell him that the proportion of people entering teaching with a degree or a higher qualification is now 98.5%, which represents a 4.3% increase since 2010. Indeed, 19% of this year’s cohort of trainees have first-class degrees, which is a higher proportion than in any of the past five years.

Given that the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 is now on the statute book, will the Secretary of State meet me and the National Custom & Self Build Association so that we can explain how the Act’s provisions can be used to recruit and retain teachers in difficult-to-fill subjects?

I would be happy to meet, or for a ministerial member of my team to meet, my hon. Friend. This excellent Bill came through Parliament at an important time, and I am happy to talk to him about how we can make sure that young people coming through our education system are connected up with the great career opportunities that await them when they leave.

Given what the Secretary of State just said about our excellent teachers, I hope that we can all agree that it is time to end the real-terms pay cuts for teachers. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that this will lead to schools squeezing non-pay spending and reducing the workforce without extra funding. The Chancellor wants us to believe that he has ended the public sector pay cap. The Secretary of State wants us to believe that she has ended cuts to schools. They cannot both be right, so which one of them is putting the “con” into the Conservatives?

Obviously the School Teachers’ Review Body will be getting its remit letter shortly, but what I have tried to set out is a much broader strategy for teaching as a profession, and not just in relation to financial incentives and making sure that they are in the places where we particularly want teachers to teach. Later this week, we will issue our consultation on strengthening qualified teacher status, which I hope will be welcomed. Of course, we are working hard to remove unnecessary workload. Earlier this year, I held a flexible working summit with the professions and unions to talk about how we can make sure that teachers stay in the profession.