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House of Commons Hansard
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Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy
28 January 2019
Volume 653

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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on the teacher recruitment and retention strategy.

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Last year, we recruited more than 34,500 trainee teachers into the profession—more than 2,000 more than the year before—but the growing number of pupils means that we need even more teachers at a time when we have the most competitive labour market on record. Today, the Government launched the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, outlining our priorities ahead of the spending review. First, we are creating the right climate so headteachers can establish the right culture in their schools. Secondly, we are transforming the support for early career teachers. Thirdly, we are building a career structure that remains attractive as teachers’ lives and careers progress. Fourthly, we are making it easier for great people to become teachers.

At the heart of the strategy is the early career framework. Developed with teachers, headteachers, academics and experts, and endorsed by the Education Endowment Foundation, it underpins what all new teachers will be entitled to be trained in at the start of their career, in line with the best-available evidence. The early career framework will underpin the fully funded two-year package of structured support for all early career teachers, including additional time off-timetable for teachers in their second year and fully funded mental health training.

By the time the new system is fully in place, we anticipate investing at least an additional £130 million every year to support the delivery in full of the early career framework. This will be a substantial investment, befitting the most significant change to the teaching profession since it became a graduate-only profession. In addition, the recruitment and retention strategy outlines how the Government will create the right climate for headteachers to establish supportive cultures in their schools in which unnecessary workload is driven down. This includes consulting on replacing the floor and coasting standards, with Ofsted’s “requires improvement” as the sole trigger for an offer of support.

The recruitment and retention strategy, including the early career framework, has been developed closely with the sector. Its publication marks a crucial milestone for the profession, as well as the start of a conversation between the Government and the profession about how best to deliver on the promise of this strategy.

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The publication of this strategy is a credit to the school leaders, teachers and trade unions who have campaigned for years on this issue. Any serious attempt to tackle the workforce crisis, however overdue, is welcome, but today’s words must be matched by actions. Perhaps the Minister could start by acknowledging the scale of the problem. He has missed his targets six years running, and teacher numbers are declining as pupil numbers are increasing. Can he confirm that between 2016 and 2017 the number of full-time equivalent teachers in our classrooms fell by over 5,000?

The Minister mentioned the £180 million of funding, but at least £42 million of it was announced back in December 2017. How much is new money? The framework talks about

“at least an additional £130 million pounds a year”.

Is that new funding from the Treasury, or is it being taken from other education spending, and if so, where from? Has the Treasury committed to this funding in the upcoming spending review, and does the “at least” mean that more money will be available if needed?

The concept of the new framework is welcome and long overdue, but can the Minister guarantee that every new teacher will be able to benefit from it? Specifically, will academies also be required to offer the additional time off-timetable for newly qualified teachers in their second year? For many schools, timetabling makes part-time work challenging. Where will they find the additional staff needed to make job shares work? Has he made any assessment of the number of teachers this could keep in or bring back into the profession?

On initial teacher training, how will the Minister ensure that smaller teacher training providers, such as school-centred providers, will not lose places? He pledged a review of teaching schools. What issues will this address and how will it be carried out? The strategy suggests that their functions will be taken on by multi-academy trusts. Will other schools be excluded? Will the strategy offer something for more experienced teachers? His most recent pay deal means that 250,000 teachers—the majority, in fact—are facing another real-terms pay cut. Can he confirm that today’s strategy does nothing to stop continued real-terms pay cuts in our schools? Surely, he can acknowledge that teachers need more than the offer of part-time work.

Finally, the teaching workforce crisis cannot be separated from the years of cuts to pay and education budgets. Our teachers do invaluable work every day raising our next generation, and I thank them all. I hope that the Government will start valuing them with more than just warm words.

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I do not really know how to react to the hon. Lady’s tone. This is a very effective recruitment and retention strategy, which has the support of the sector, and I should have thought that she would want to support it as well. The concept and structure of the strategy were driven by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the details were developed by officials and by me in close consultation with the profession, the teachers’ unions and academics. I do not regard that as a matter for criticism.

The hon. Lady asks whether the £130 million is new money. It reflects what we think schools will need to support a 5% timetable reduction for early-years career teachers, for mental health training and time and for the training programme. The Government are clear that they are committed to that funding, and it is new funding. It does not include the £42 million teacher development premium.

The hon. Lady asks about more experienced teachers. As she will see when she has a chance to read the strategy, it includes support for non-leadership career pathways for teachers who want to remain in the classroom. There will be a teacher development national professional qualification to enable them to enhance their careers without necessarily taking on leadership positions. We shall be announcing a procurement tender for initial teacher training providers and others.

The principal challenge that we face in teacher recruitment is the fact that we have a strong economy, with record numbers of jobs and the lowest unemployment since the 1970s. We are competing with other professions, such as commerce and industry, for the best graduates in our economy. A strong economy is not a challenge likely to face any Labour Government. Whenever Labour is in office, it damages the public finances, damages the economy and destroys jobs, whereas the Conservatives repair our economy, take a balanced approach to the public finances and create jobs—millions of jobs.

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I strongly welcome this announcement—particularly amid the Brexit fog—and I welcome the work that my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State are doing. Has either of them considered the idea of establishing local teacher training colleges in areas of strong deprivation, possibly linked to further education colleges, to encourage people in those areas to take up teaching?

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The purpose of the phased bursaries that we have piloted with maths in particular is to stagger the payments of those bursaries after three years. For those training to teach maths, there is a £20,000 bursary, followed by a £5,000 payment after three years and a further another £5,000 after five years. In areas where there is a record of recruitment challenges, or areas of deprivation, the £5,000 figure becomes £7,500. There is a range of other measures intended to incentivise people to train in the areas to which my right hon. Friend has referred.

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I, too, welcome the new strategy, but it is long overdue. We have been raising these issues in the House for a number of years, and the Minister, and other Ministers, seem to have been in denial about what is causing them. That has been echoed in some of the Minister’s comments today. Tackling teacher recruitment and retention is not about a growing economy; it is about pay, workload and job satisfaction, so will the Minister now address those three key issues in a more strategic and substantive way than we have seen them addressed thus far?

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We have been addressing those issues. For instance, we started to deal with workload in 2014. The workload challenge produced 44,000 responses identifying the top three issues: excessive marking work, data collection and lesson preparation. We addressed those with some workload review groups, and accepted their recommendations. This strategy, however, includes more measures to deal with workload. For example, the new Ofsted framework will include tackling teacher workload as an element of the leadership and management judgment that schools will face.

We are also doing more to ensure that the culture of schools is right. We are changing the accountability regime. There will not be a “football manager” approach. We are consulting today on replacing a floor and coasting as triggers for support for schools with the simple “requires improvement” judgment of Ofsted. We have been engaged in a range of measures since 2010, and we are taking a strategic approach to these issues as well. I think that if the hon. Lady reads the strategy, she will find that it addresses all her concerns.

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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does he share my hope that this new strategy marks the end of excessive marking and data entry, so that our teachers can spend more time doing what they came into the profession to do, which is teach, and not be overburdened by administration?

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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Department and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State take very seriously the issue of tackling excessive workload. Teachers in this country work eight hours a week above the OECD average but work the same number of teaching hours as the OECD average. Those extra eight hours are spent, as my right hon. Friend said, on things such as excessive data collection and excessive marking. We have been addressing those issues, and this strategy continues to address them including through a new approach by Ofsted.

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I appreciate that the strategy announced today is urgently needed to address the growing crisis in our schools, but should the Government not be taking time to recognise why there is such a dire need for a recruitment and retention strategy, and is it not a fact that stripping schools of resources and inflicting years of pay cuts have left teachers demoralised by the current regime in our schools?

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The hon. Lady will know that we are spending a record amount of money on our schools: £43.5 billion by next year. Every local authority is seeing an increase in funding for every pupil in every school in the country. The School Teachers Review Body recommended a 3.5% pay rise for teachers on the main pay scale, and we have accepted a 2% pay rise for teachers on the upper pay scale and have agreed a 1.5% pay rise for headteachers on the leadership pay scale. We are funding that through a teacher pay grant over and above the 1% already budgeted.

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I welcome the fact that this plan has been co-signed by all the teaching unions. What measures will the Minister put in place to support rural teachers, particularly in underfunded areas such as mine in Cheshire, where they often face additional hurdles around accommodation and transport?

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As I have said, we are taking a number of measures to tackle areas that have suffered particular historical challenges in recruiting teachers, including rural and coastal areas and areas of deprivation. The evidence suggests that within those areas different schools face different challenges, so it is often a school-level challenge, but we do have measures in place to direct funding particularly to areas of challenge, and we are rolling out this strategy to areas, including the north-east, Manchester and Bristol, that we know face particular social mobility challenges.

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Is it not the case that to reduce workload in any significant way we simply need more teachers and more support staff in schools, and therefore does the Minister agree that until the Treasury commits to a long-term plan that includes a significant real-terms increase in the education budget, the most he can hope for is to make marginal improvements?

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Teaching remains an attractive profession. There are 450,000 teachers in the profession. Last year, we recruited 34,500 teachers, which is over 2,000 more than the year before, and that year we recruited more teachers than the year before that. We accepted the recommendation of the STRB of a 3.5% pay rise for teachers on the main pay scale. We added an extra £1.3 billion of school funding, which we announced in the summer of 2017. The Chancellor announced an extra £400 million in his Budget for small capital projects. We have announced an extra £250 million recently for special needs funding. And we have issued a pay grant to fund the pay increases over and above the 1% that schools will already have budgeted.

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May I put on the record my thanks to all the teachers in Redditch, who give all our young people such a great start in life? I, too, welcome this strategy, and note in particular the comments from the body that brings people from other professions into teaching as well as the support for the early career framework. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to use best practice to attract the best people into the teaching profession?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The early career framework is built on best evidence of the approach to teaching. It is a welcome framework and focuses on those issues that teachers need to be trained in to be effective as teachers. I was struck by how different it is to enter into the teaching profession compared with other professions, such as chartered accountancy. There is a lot of support in the first few years of training to be an accountant, once one is in work. In the teaching profession, there is a steep learning curve in those early years, and we have been concerned about the high drop-out rate in the first few years of people’s careers.

The strategy seeks to give more support to teachers in those early years, because it is not just a recruitment strategy; it is also about increasing retention of those very highly able people so that they stay in the profession—a profession they almost certainly love when they come into it, and which they can be driven out of by excessive workload and a lack of support.

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Having done both that job and this one, I can absolutely agree that starting out as a teacher is harder than starting out as an MP. Although I welcome this strategy, which is long overdue, it does nothing to stem the real reasons why teachers are leaving: the toxic culture created in large part by this Government, the reduction of children to data points, and cuts to school budgets that have spread teachers’ good will as thin as it can get. The strategy will not fix that. We need to tackle the core issues, for example by abolishing Ofsted and putting in place something that teachers absolutely trust and by increasing massively the amount of high-quality professional development. What are the Minister’s plans to tackle the real reasons why teachers are leaving in the first place?

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I agree with some of what the hon. Lady says. Data collection has been a burden and there has been an over-obsession with data and its collection. Ofsted has made it very clear in the new framework that it will not be seeking that data; it will not want to see any internal assessment data on the progress that pupils make. It will be looking at the wider curriculum and more substantive issues when schools are inspected.

The hon. Lady is right about workload, and both I and the Secretary of State take that very seriously. That is why we had the workload challenge in 2014 and why we have taken a series of measures to reduce both workload and data collection. We have a data collection toolkit and we have a leading academic from the Institute of Education looking into the question of data collection to try to get rid of some of the unnecessary data collection points that she mentions. Ofsted has just published its new framework for consultation, and that has landed well with the sector. When the hon. Lady has a chance to see it, she will see that it focuses on those things that really matter to a child’s education.

On CPD, one aim of the recruitment and retention strategy is to create a more diverse range of options for career progression, including a new teacher development national professional qualification—[Interruption.] I think I have said enough, Mr Speaker.

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I have known the right hon. Gentleman for 33 years and I must say that he has a mildly eccentric approach to these matters. Nobody could accuse the Minister of State of excluding from his answer any matter that might at any stage to any degree be judged to be material—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) has not stood, but I have just been advised that he has been twitching. Let’s hear the fellow.

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As I said in October 1990 when I raised the question of leadership with the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher—especially mentioning Peter Dawson, who had run Eltham Green before becoming general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers—the culture that good heads can set, followed by other senior teachers, can bring people in not just to teach first but to teach second, bringing the experience of their own careers to expand our schools and academies. They can do a great deal of good for children across the country.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Headteachers play an important part in creating the right culture in schools, and the Government have a role to play in helping headteachers to create that culture. We want schools to acknowledge that we live in a strong economy with low levels of unemployment and a competitive jobs market so schools, like other employers, will need to be more flexible in their recruitment approach to allow more professionals to come into the profession on a part-time or flexible basis. We had a flexible working summit last year, because we want to encourage people to teach more flexibly.

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It is good that the Government finally accept that there is a recruitment and retention problem, but when does the Minister hope to wake up to the budget problems that are causing neglected repairs, reduced swimming and music lessons, curtailed extra-curricular activities and insufficient teaching assistants, particularly for special-needs children?

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We acknowledge the cost pressures on schools. As I said before, we are spending record amounts on schools, but there are of course increased pressures. We are asking schools to do more. Standards are rising, more children are reading more effectively earlier, we have better maths teaching, and more young people are taking at least two science GCSEs today than several years ago. That is why we are helping schools to tackle budget pressures, including through buying schemes for energy, insurance, computers and so on. We are also helping schools to balance their budgets when it comes to deploying staff. Tackling workload will be an important part of easing the cost pressures on schools.

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I welcome this strategy. Two primary schools in the villages of Breachwood Green and Redbourn in my constituency have talked to me about the specific challenges they face because they are small rural schools. Will the Minister explain how the strategy will help to deal with such problems? Will he also meet with me to discuss the specific issues in those particular primary schools?

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I am happy to discuss funding issues relating to particular schools with my hon. Friend. Small schools receive a fixed sum that helps to deal with some of the fixed costs appropriate to such schools, and there is also the sparsity funding element of the national funding formula. The formula is geared towards helping small or rural schools, but I appreciate that they will face cost pressures, and we are helping schools to tackle them with a range of measures.

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After talking to school leaders in Bristol South, I challenge the Minister on whether the money is sufficient to support them in delivering on the commitment. Given the existing large burdens on headteachers, what will he do to support the middle tier of teachers into becoming headteachers and future leaders?

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We are investing in new and existing leadership qualifications and will do so disproportionately in more challenging areas of the country. As I said before, we are also developing our new national teacher development professional qualification for teachers who want to rise but do not necessarily want to go into leadership positions.

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I welcome the intention behind the strategy, but I would like it to contain more than warm words. What measures will the Minister put in place in high-cost areas that do not receive outer-London weighting and where there is severe pressure on schools?

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The national funding formula contains an area cost adjustment that takes into account the cost pressures of employing both teachers and non-teachers in such areas. This strategy involves £130 million of new funding, because we strongly believe that we want teachers in the second year of their careers to have time off timetable so that they can develop their teaching skills with support from a mentor and teacher training programmes.

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It is welcome that the strategy finally acknowledges the need to tackle excessive workloads for teachers if we are to bring the recruitment and retention crisis to an end. Given that secondary school pupil numbers are set to rise by 15% in the next decade, can the Minister guarantee that the funding that our schools need to implement the strategy will be provided quickly and effectively?

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The funding will be provided when the strategy is fully rolled out in September 2021. We are rolling it out earlier, in September 2020, to Bradford, Doncaster, Greater Manchester and the north-east—I think I said Bristol earlier, but I actually meant Bradford. The strategy will be fully funded, and £130 million has been agreed with the Treasury despite the fact that it goes into the next spending review period.

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I very much welcome this long overdue strategy. There is some evidence of burnout for teachers in mid and later career. Is the Minister looking to see which academy chains and local authorities perform well in teacher retention and which perform less well, and is he learning appropriate lessons from that?

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As I mentioned earlier, the new Ofsted framework will be looking at things like teacher workload, as part and parcel of the leadership and management judgments made about a school. The Government take teacher workload extremely seriously, which is why we set up the three review groups to look at data management, excessive marking and lesson preparation. We have accepted all the recommendations of those three review groups.

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By definition, the most experienced teachers are the most expensive. One of the reasons for poor retention is that schools, particularly smaller primary schools, have to lay off those teachers because they cannot afford them within their budget. Will the Government look at how we can keep those teachers teaching, as they are the best because of that experience?

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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The national funding formula is distributing funding across our schools system in a far fairer way than in the past, and this recruitment and retention strategy should ease the cost pressures on schools. We have also introduced a teaching vacancy website, which is a free resource to enable schools to recruit free of charge, as the profession has been calling for a long time.

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Now that the Minister has acknowledged the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis, will he commit to funding the 3.5% pay offer in full? No ifs, no buts: in full.

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We have already said that we are funding the pay rise to which we have agreed. The 3.5% is being funded, over and above the 1% that schools have already budgeted. That is what the pay grant is all about, and we are distributing over £500 million this year and next year to fund that pay rise.