UK: workloads spark a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention

published 24 February 2017 updated 6 March 2017

Following the launch of the Education Select Committee report into the recruitment and retention of teachers, UK education unions have urged public authorities to take urgent measures to tackle this serious national crisis.

NUT: Punitive accountability

“Teaching can be one of the most rewarding professions,” said the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) General Secretary, Kevin Courtney. “However, the increasingly unacceptable workloads have made it more and more difficult both to recruit new teachers and to prevent existing teachers leaving.”

He insisted that teachers’ “unmanageable workload” is “driven by punitive accountability” and “one of the main reasons given by many for leaving the profession”.

The Government urgently needs to reform all the parts of the accountability regime, direct school heads to reduce workload, and set a limit on working hours outside of teaching time, he said.

Need evidence-based change

Courtney also noted that the report highlights that recruitment and retention have been a serious problem for many years, and that far too many teachers have been driven out of a profession they love because of ill-thought-out and punitive education policy.

He urged UK Education Minister Justine Greening to “take heed of this report and, for the sake of children and young people, listen to the profession and bring about the sort of change that is evidence-based and has the backing of teachers to sort this serious problem out”.

NASUWT: report to act as a wake-up call to ministers to address the teacher supply crisis

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) “has been presenting evidence of the deepening teacher recruitment crisis for some time but the Government is in denial”, said General Secretary Chris Keates.

The Public Accounts Committee and now the Education Select Committee have both warned that ministers have no clear plan to address these issues, she said, adding that the Government’s analysis of current and future teacher supply needs is seriously flawed.

This report “should act as a wake-up call to ministers that falling back on sticking plaster solutions such as the failed National Teaching Service will do nothing to address the systemic causes of the teacher supply crisis”, she warned.

Teachers leaving

The Government’s own policies have resulted in excessive and increasing teacher workloads, dwindling pay, starting salaries which are increasingly uncompetitive with other graduate professions, and the relentless pressure of the high-stakes accountability regime, Keates said. These factors are driving existing teachers out of the profession, sapped of energy and enthusiasm for the job, and deterring new entrants, she added.

The committee is clear that there is a serious national teacher recruitment and retention issue which is affecting all subjects and all localities. The Government must face up to the crisis it has created, she said.