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Schools: Recruitment and Retention

Volume 783: debated on Tuesday 18 July 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recommendations on pay made by the School Teachers’ Review Body, what action they will take to increase teacher recruitment and retention.

My Lords, teaching is and remains an attractive graduate profession. Despite the dramatic improvement in the economy, more teachers are in our schools than ever before, over 15,000 more than in 2010. However, we are not complacent, which is why we continue to invest, including more than £200 million this year, in attracting the brightest and the best into teaching and on tackling the areas that cause teachers to leave the profession, in particular that of workload.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Figures I have obtained show that between 2010 and 2015 we trained 117,000 teachers and that we have lost 27,000 of them. Does the Minister think that this is due primarily to workload or to pay?

It is quite clear that teacher retention rates have remained pretty stable over the past 20 years. We live in a world where people do move between jobs a lot, but there is no evidence to suggest that teacher retention has declined in recent years. Moreover, we are doing a great deal of work with teachers, including running an active programme in order to reduce workload.

My Lords, is not the great increase in the number of pupils with English as a second language making life very difficult for teachers?

As we have discussed before, there is no doubt that initially pupils who either do not speak English or have poor English do make life difficult for teachers, but the evidence is clear that those pupils, once they can speak the language—which many of them do relatively quickly—can be, to put it bluntly, much more aspirational. As we now all know, although we spend a lot of time compiling statistics on what we call English as additional language pupils, it is in fact white working-class pupils who are falling behind dramatically in our schools. That is why we are making such a substantial investment in coastal towns, former mining villages and other such communities to improve education.

My Lords, I refer the House to my interests relating to teacher recruitment through my work at TES Global. The Minister says that he is not complacent. When I look at the statistics for teacher retention and take out retirement because the number of those retiring has been reducing, I can see that the number leaving the service prematurely has been increasingly significantly every year since 2012. The figure rose from 28,630 in that year to 39,980 in 2016. To repeat the question: is this because of workload pressure or because of pay?

I know that the noble Lord is very experienced in this area, but he has picked one particular statistic. The fact is that returners to education employment have increased by 8% since 2011 and, as noble Lords will know, this year our recruitment programme has run substantially ahead of last year. We have again recruited 100% of primary teachers and 89%, as opposed to 82%, of secondary teachers.

My Lords, will the Minister consider reviewing the system of continuing professional development for teachers with a view to streamlining and strengthening it? Only last week I heard from the leader of a multi-academy trust that he thought that there are too many providers in this area and it is not working efficiently. Does the Minister agree that consistently excellent levels of continuing professional development could have a significant impact on the retention of teachers?

The noble Earl makes an extremely good point. I think that we are all aware that continuous professional development for teachers is vital. Their initial training may be brief, for nine months, and I think that it is accepted by all in the profession —I have had discussions with the unions as well— that professional development should take place throughout a teacher’s career, particularly in their first three or five years. We know that overseas—for instance, in Shanghai—the programme takes five years. We are seeing many multi-academy trusts developing much more sophisticated continuous professional development for their teachers.

My Lords, despite the Minister saying that he is not complacent, I think that noble Lords will agree with me that his answers suggest that he and his department remain in denial about the crisis in teacher retention and recruitment. Just eight months ago, the department confirmed that almost one-third of teachers who joined the profession in 2011 had left it within five years. My noble friend Lord Knight asked a few moments ago whether the cause was workload or pay. In fact, it is a combination of both, particularly below-inflation pay increases. On that specific question, can the Minister reveal to noble Lords whether teachers and teachers’ assistants are among those public servants that the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to regard as “overpaid”?

One reason why it has become difficult to recruit teachers is the strength in the economy. The best way to recruit more teachers might be to have a Labour Government, who would wreck the economy and therefore dramatically improve unemployment rates and increase our chances of employing teachers. We live in a highly competitive economy. In many parts of the country, we have full employment. Difficulty in recruitment is not exclusive to teaching or to this country. However, we are not complacent; we are investing a great deal of time in a more regional approach to teacher recruitment and in changing our approaches to advertising and marketing, with schools working together in different regions on a much more sophisticated approach to recruitment.

Are the Government continuing to improve the arrangements under which teachers are initially trained?

Yes. As I think my noble friend knows, we have substantially increased the proportion of teachers trained in schools—it has now risen to 56% of initial teacher training. As I said in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, we are continuing to look at improving initial teacher training.