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Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Volume 670: debated on Monday 20 January 2020

There are over 453,000 teachers in our schools, 12,000 more than in 2010. Postgraduate recruitment to teacher training is at its highest level since 2010-11, and just under two thirds of teachers who started teaching six years ago are still teaching today.

That means that one third are leaving, which is a high attrition rate. We know that pay freezes are one reason for that, but also the crushing workload. Just in Chester this morning, teachers have told me about the crushing workload that is driving teachers out. What is the Minister doing to reduce that workload, take pressure off teachers and let teachers teach?

Since we conducted the workload challenge survey in 2014, we have worked hard to reduce the unnecessary demands on teachers’ time, whether that is cumbersome marking practices or excessive data collection. Since 2016, teachers’ working hours have fallen by five hours per week, according to the second teacher workload survey, which measures teachers’ own reporting of their working hours. There is still more to do—the hon. Gentleman is right—but this success so far demonstrates the seriousness with which we take excessive workload and the effectiveness of our early initiatives.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with the Government’s important commitment on starting salaries, the new early career framework and finally some good news, as he mentioned, in the autumn on teachers’ workload, now there is a positive proposition to be made for people to join this the most noble of professions?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his work in his years as Secretary of State for Education. It was a pleasure to work with him during that period. He is right—the School Teachers’ Review Body has recommended a 2.75% pay rise for teachers across the board, and we are also proposing a £30,000 starting salary for teachers from 2022. In addition to the £26,000 tax-free bursary, teachers of maths, physics, chemistry and languages who start their training this September will receive early career payments of £2,000 in each of their second, third and fourth years of teaching. So this is a good time to start training as a teacher. It is a worthwhile profession and I encourage all graduates to consider teaching as a career.

The Minister surely knows that the pay rise he mentioned will only return starting salaries to where they were in 2010. Furthermore, the prospect of a pay rise in three years’ time will do nothing to help schools that are struggling now to recruit new teachers. Does not he accept that the so-called “pay rise” is nothing more than papering over the cracks in this recruitment and retention crisis?

I do not agree. We are living in a very strong economy, with the lowest level of unemployment for more than 40 years and demand for graduates is strong. We are responding to those pressures. As I said earlier, we have recruited the largest number of graduates into teacher training. I have announced the salaries for teachers when they finish their training and start teaching; 2022 is the right date for that salary increase. The average pay of a headteacher is £70,100 a year, and it is £36,200 a year for a classroom teacher. This is a good time to join the teaching profession and I urge Opposition Members to talk up the attractiveness of that profession and not continually to talk it down.

Those who serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces represent the very best of British. What is being done to turn troops into teachers when veterans leave the armed forces?

My hon. Friend raises a good point. Veterans make attractive members of staff in our schools, they inspire young people and help to improve behaviour. Our Troops to Teachers scheme was slow to begin with, but it is now proving successful in recruiting Army leavers.[Official Report, 4 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 3MC.]