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Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy

Volume 795: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2019


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat as a Statement the Answer given yesterday in the other place in response to an Urgent Question on the Government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy. The Statement is as follows:

“Last year, we recruited over 34,500 trainee teachers into the profession—over 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 have launched the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, outlining our priorities ahead of the spending review. First, we are creating the right climate for head teachers to establish the right cultures in their schools. Secondly, we are transforming the support for early-career teachers. Thirdly, we are building a career offer 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, head teachers, 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 a 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 early-career framework delivery in full. 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 are going to create the right climate for head teachers to establish supportive cultures in their schools, where 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 government and the profession about how best to deliver on the promise of this strategy”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, and welcome much of the strategy, as well as the fact that the teaching unions were fully involved in formulating it. It was certainly a long time in the making. The Government published their response to the Workload Challenge consultation four years ago next month, and the Secretary of State promised this strategy 10 months ago.

With official figures showing that teachers leave the profession at the same rate as they enter it—and with secondary school rolls due to rise by 15% in the next six years—we welcome the clarification from the Schools Minister yesterday that the £130 million annually pledged to support the strategy is indeed new money, but we shall watch closely to ensure that that commitment is delivered.

I have two questions for the Minister on issues with which I am sure he will be familiar, as they relate to academies. First, will the requirement in the early-career framework to give second-year newly qualified teachers time off-timetable be extended to every school, including academies? Secondly, the plans for a teaching school review are vague, but it seems the Government want to hand their responsibilities over to multi-academy trusts. Can the Minister say how schools that are not part of a MAT will be able to participate in these collaborative partnerships?

Finally, there is the elephant in the room in this whole debate: teachers’ mental health, which is in crisis, with studies showing that 40% of teachers are on medication. You cannot have a meaningful policy on retention and recruitment—I have advisedly reversed the order because in many ways retention is more important—without properly addressing mental health issues encountered by teachers. The Statement makes passing reference to fully funded mental health training, but what does that mean? Does it refer to teachers’ own mental health or that of their pupils? Even that brief reference relates only to early-career teachers. What do the Government have to say about support for those whose careers have developed further than that, and where is the issue of mental health in the strategy itself? I have been unable to locate it where it most sensibly should have been placed: in Chapter 3 or, failing that, Chapter 2—but no. It cannot be assumed that workload is the sole contributing factor. Making assumptions is always dangerous, and failure even to acknowledge mental health is more dangerous still, not just for the valued professionals who are our teachers but for the children to whom we entrust them.

I accept that the Minister may be unable to respond to all these issues, but we believe they are important and I ask that he writes to me to set out the Government’s position, if that is more convenient.

I thank the noble Lord for his questions. Dealing with the ones that I can address straight away, I reassure him that academies will be included in the early-career framework. This is a strategy for the entire state-funded system.

Regarding the question on teaching schools, we are reviewing this at the moment and have not fully completed our thinking. One issue of concern to us is that there are too many teaching schools that between them are not receiving enough money to meaningfully engage with the surrounding areas that they are being asked to help. We are looking to rationalise that. We hope that good multi-academy trusts will play a role in that, but we are certainly not seeking to exclude good schools.

I agree with the noble Lord that retention is more important than recruitment, because there is no point pouring people into a bucket with a hole at the bottom of it. We have given a lot of consideration to how we improve retention. A big problem is the workload and how it is being imposed, particularly on young teachers. We are aware from the figures for those leaving the profession that the percentage of younger, newly qualified teachers leaving the profession is one of the highest categories. We are working on that. There are several areas of concern; for example, the pernicious expectation that young teachers should be responsible for planning their own lessons, when we want to encourage schools to provide much more support.

I shall write separately to the noble Lord to address his concerns on mental health.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his Statement, in which he gave the context and rationale for the teacher recruitment and retention strategy that was published yesterday. I am delighted that the Government have worked with the co-signatories listed on the inside cover. The tone of the strategy is very positive.

I do not agree however, that it is a full national strategy, as there is more work to be done. How are middle leaders to be developed, and do those who manage MATs need knowledge and perhaps experience of how schools work? While the partnerships in the document reflect a new beginning for schools, what role do the Government see for local authorities, which, after all, are the largest employers of teachers? What a pity they were not involved in the formation of the strategy.

The strategy starts by stating that,

“there are no great schools without great teachers”.

Hear, hear.

My Lords, the focus is on early-career teaching at this stage. We have outlined four key areas. One is funding, which will allow teachers in their second year to reduce their timetable by 5%. We are encouraging a reduction in teacher workload, which I covered a moment ago, and a more diverse range of options for career progression, which will help teachers further along in their career. We want to continue to make sure that teaching is considered a great career for those coming into it. We launched an initiative last year called Discover Teaching. Some 13,000 potential recruits have been through that system.

We need to see how the first phase of this programme evolves. We are rolling out some pilot areas in September next year: Bradford, the north-east and one other area which I shall find in my notes in a moment. We will learn from our experience of how those work before we implement the programme across the country.

I have always been quite surprised at the lack of support for new people entering the teaching profession, compared with other professions. My noble friend has spoken about some of the burdens. Can he talk a little about the positive help that the new strategy will give to newly qualified teachers in the first couple of years?

Yes, as I mentioned a moment ago, newly qualified teachers in their second year will have 5% taken off their teaching timetable—that is in addition to the 10% taken off the timetable in the first year. High-quality, freely available curricular and training materials will be designed to complement the early-career framework. There will be funded early-career framework training programmes and support from a trained mentor, including funding to take into account the additional call on mentors’ time in the second year of induction.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his Statement and for this way forward. First, he knows that the Church of England runs many small rural schools, and recruitment and retention is always a creative challenge. Have the Government considered how the strategy is to be rural-proofed for full application across the country? Secondly, Chapter 3 talks about further leadership development. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are going to continue to encourage bodies such as the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership in developing professional qualifications for middle leaders and heads of MATs?

I share the right reverend Prelate’s concerns about rural schools. We have particular funding pots within the overall formula—sparsity funding, for example—which give a typical small rural primary school an additional £135,000 a year and a small secondary school £175,000. We are committed to the various ongoing training programmes. Only this morning, I was addressing a group of some 80 people involved in professional development training and encouraging them in what they were doing. I absolutely support what the right reverend Prelate has said.

My Lords, I broadly welcome the announcement. There is a lot in it that offers hope for the future. The challenge will be in implementing it. I think it is overclaimed. I do not think it is the biggest change since teaching became an all-degree profession. Indeed, there are not many individual proposals that have not done the rounds before, so it is worth learning from them. The advanced skills teacher has been redesigned under a different title.

I have two questions. I very much welcome the protected time that will be offered for new teachers. I listened to what the Minister said about the amount of money that will be put into the system. Can he confirm that it will be ring-fenced when it gets to school level? Otherwise, in times of diminishing budgets, it will not get spent on the purpose for which it was intended. Secondly, how is he going to overcome the problem of making excellent schools that are not academies part of the school-led improvement system if he is going to give a lot more power to multi-academy trusts?

I will have to write to the noble Baroness to confirm whether the money will be ring-fenced at school level. Certainly, our preference is to give autonomy to schools, but I will check on it and come back to her. Support is aimed beyond academies at all state schools. Only just over 50% of pupils are in academies today, so it is not our intention to see those still in the local authority system left behind.