UK: Flexible working needed to solve recruitment and retention crisis

Better part-time and flexible working opportunities can help solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis in the UK, say education unions in response to the latest National Foundation for Educational Research’s report.

“Teacher Retention and Turnover” was released on 24 October by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a centre for educational research and development in England and Wales.

NASUWT: no valid excuse to turn down request for flexible work in teaching

“Improving flexible working opportunities in teaching is certainly important in supporting teachers at all stages of their careers to remain the profession,” said Chris Keates, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). The NASUWT research and casework shows that too many teachers are being denied their rights to flexible working, she noted, with “spurious arguments, feeble excuses and blatant discrimination” used to turn down requests.

Even when teachers are granted flexibility, there are countless incidents of unfairness and exploitation, with many teachers still expected to undertake work-related activities on days they are not supposed to be working, invariably without payment, she added.

Effective action to support flexible working must also go hand-in-hand with measures to reduce the excessive workload which is affecting all teachers and which is at the heart of why rising numbers are leaving the profession.

NEU: deepening crisis in teacher supply

The National Education Union (NEU) Joint General Secretary, Mary Bousted, also highlighted that the NFER report “is yet more evidence of a deepening crisis in teacher supply which ministers must develop a coherent strategy to address”.

According to the NEU, the report highlights how the rates of wastage have increased among younger teachers and older teachers alike in the last five years.

Knowing that workload is the biggest single factor in teachers leaving the profession, she urged the Government to work with the profession to find solutions to the teacher supply crisis.

Fundamentally, the Government must fund schools properly, she insisted, “then schools will be able to employ sufficient teachers, pay them a decent wage and invest in continuous professional development and career development to make the profession more attractive”.

She underlined that children’s education is being damaged because fewer than half of all teachers in England have ten years’ or more experience.

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