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Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Volume 726: debated on Monday 16 January 2023

1. What steps her Department is taking to improve the (a) recruitment and (b) retention of teachers. (903047)

Our fantastic teachers do an amazing job day in, day out, and I am proud to say that we have increased the number of teachers by 24,000 since 2010. Recruitment and retention has been a key challenge in every industry, in every country and in every Department that I have worked in. Whether attracting data analysts at the start of the dotcom era, or broadening the routes into healthcare professions, it is always a challenge. We are bolstering teacher numbers through the highest pay award for 30 years and we are providing generous bursaries worth up to £27,000, as well as our levelling-up premium, which is worth up to £3,000 each year for five years for maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers.

The National Foundation for Educational Research says today that a strategy for improving recruitment and retention should involve

“pay uplifts that are higher than pay growth in the wider labour market for most or all teachers”.

Does the Secretary of State agree? Is it not the case that she cannot address the crisis until she gives teachers and support staff the fully funded, inflation-plus pay rise that they deserve?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. In 2019, we launched the Government’s first ever integrated strategy to recruit and retain more teachers in schools, which had a number of different strands in it, including supporting teachers on the way in, recruiting more, and various routes into teaching. Of course, we have an independent pay review body and this year we accepted all its recommendations in full.[Official Report, 25 January 2023, Vol. 726, c. 9MC.]

On Friday morning, I was privileged to attend St Paulinus Church of England Primary School in Crayford to speak with teachers and to answer pupils’ questions. As my right hon. Friend knows, an inspirational teacher is often key to opening opportunities for a young person’s future. What more can the Government do to help to retain more of those good, aspirational teachers?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his work. Many of us have a treat on a Friday when we go into our fantastic schools and meet lots of children. The early career framework, which was introduced last year, is focused on trying to ensure that we support teachers, particularly in the first five years, so that we retain more of them. The figures show that the risk of retention is in those first five years, so we have put a lot of work and effort into making sure that we support them more during that period.

Of course, recruitment and retention of teachers is important, but all hon. Members will prioritise keeping schoolchildren safe from sexual predators. I am sure that the Secretary of State will be aware of the Scottish child abuse inquiry, detailing the horrific allegations from a number of witnesses to events at Edinburgh Academy and Fettes College by an individual referred to as Edgar. I have a number of constituents who have complaints against Edgar. This man has admitted to inappropriate behaviour and is currently fighting extradition from South Africa, where he has been publicly named. There is a precedent in England where another alleged abuser living in South Africa, whose extradition has been sought, has been publicly named. We now know that dozens of boys have come forward to the police with allegations against the man referred to as Edgar. It is important that others who were abused by this man can come forward. It is right that his crimes against children are named and it is also right that he is now named. It is for this reason that it is in the public interest that the real name of Edgar—that is, Iain Wares—is now publicly known.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and the Government are sympathetic to the victims and survivors of such abuse. As set out in November in response to the final report of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, it is important that due process is followed to allow investigatory and legal processes to take place to maximise the chances of conviction.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Government intend to raise starting salaries for teachers to £30,000 a year and that the pension entitlement that teachers enjoy is far higher than those earning the same wage in the private sector?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. In line with our manifesto commitment to raise the starting salary, it is £28,000 this year and it will be £30,000 from September next year. I can confirm that the employer contribution to teachers’ pensions is 23.6%, which is considerably higher than for many in the private sector.

The Secretary of State says she wants to support teachers, particularly in the first five years, and that the £30,000 a year salary will kick in next year. In London, people often move after about five years because they simply cannot afford to rent privately or buy in the capital. What is she doing, both in the immediate and the long term, to make sure that we keep good teachers in London?

The hon. Lady may be aware that we have a London weighting for teachers, but I accept that the costs of accommodation in London are extremely high in some areas.

It is, indeed, a treat to visit schools. On Friday, I visited the brilliant Horndean Technology College, where I was told that there are 20 ways of getting into teaching, but still schools are struggling to get teachers. What more can we do to slim down those 20 ways, which seem rather a lot, and ensure that we have well-qualified teachers to teach pupils to a high standard?

One of the main things we are doing is making sure that we have bursaries to attract teachers, particularly in subjects where there is a lot of competition for those skills. I am actually hoping to increase the number of routes, because we are looking to have an apprenticeship for teaching at undergraduate level, so that people who need to earn and learn can also be attracted into teaching.

Having dumped the Schools Bill, the only education policy this Government seem to have is a gimmick announcement on making maths compulsory until 18, a plan that experts say is unachievable in the light of the teacher recruitment crisis. What discussion did the Secretary of State have with the Prime Minister before his announcement, because surely she would have told him it was unworkable, given that the Government have missed their recruitment target for maths teachers in each of the last 10 years?

We very much have a focus on making sure that our standards are very high in schools and that our children have the very best education to compete globally when they need to get into the workforce. If we look at every other developed economy, we see that in pretty much all of them children do maths in some form up to the age of 18, and we are a bit of an outlier. We are looking to raise the expectations and standards to make sure that our children can compete, and to also give them financial skills for life. Of course, we will work with the sector, and it is a longer-term strategy to make sure that we have enough maths teachers. We have a number of strategies already in place, because it is always tough to recruit maths teachers, and that is why we have introduced a bursary of up to £27,000 for all maths teachers and also for many science teachers.