Recruitment and retention

7 bleak findings that show school recruitment crisis is intensifying

Researchers warn of 'perfect storm' of teacher shortages, career moves and a tight labour market

Researchers warn of 'perfect storm' of teacher shortages, career moves and a tight labour market

The teacher recruitment crisis is worsening, with leaders abandoning interviews because of a lack of good candidates and vacancies in technology, humanities and languages soaring.

New research by Teacher Tapp and SchoolDash, sponsored by the Gatsby Foundation, reveals a “sobering picture” of the situation facing schools. It is based on analysis of teacher job adverts and a survey of thousands of school staff.

SchoolDash founder Timo Hannay said we “appear to be witnessing a perfect storm in which the chronic shortage of teachers is combining with a post-pandemic rise in career moves and an unusually tight labour market”.

Becky Allen, chief analyst at Teacher Tapp, added she expected challenges at secondary level to “worsen over the next few years as their pupil population rises and as initial teacher training delivers fewer teachers”.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Secondary vacancies up 40% in two years

Analysis of teacher vacancy adverts shows the number of roles advertised by secondary schools climbed by 12 per cent this year.

This follows a rise of 28 per cent between 2020-21 and 2021-22, meaning the situation has worsened still.

Polling found 13 per cent of responding secondary teachers reported unfilled vacancies in their departments, while 80 per cent reported a decrease in applicants compared to the norm, up from 65 per cent last year.

2. ‘Weak field’ halts job interviews

Middle and senior leaders were asked if they had been involved in internal or external recruitment over the past 12 months, and what had happened.

Forty-nine per cent of secondary leaders and 30 per cent of primary leaders did not proceed to interview due to a “weak or absent” field.

And 42 per cent of secondary staff and 34 per cent of primary said they had failed to fill positions after the interview stage.

These figures were higher in schools rated ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

And 39 per cent of secondary leaders and 27 per cent of primary said they “reluctantly” appointed candidates who may “lack adequate qualifications or have
performed poorly in interviews”.

3. Tech, humanities and languages bear the brunt

Some subjects are clearly struggling more with recruitment than others, though researchers said each subject had seen at least a 10 per cent increase in adverts since before the pandemic.

Between 2018-19 and the period from last September to this May, the number of secondary school adverts in technology subjects rose by 52 per cent.

There was a 41 per cent increase in humanities vacancies, and a 38 per cent increase in languages.

4. Fewer senior leaders aspire to headship

Before the pandemic, 56 per cent of deputy or assistant headteachers reported aspiring to become headteachers.

This has now fallen to 43 per cent, promping concerns about future recruitment.

However, researchers said DfE records indicated “a surge in new headteacher appointments”, reflecting a “high number of retirements” following the stress of Covid-19.

5. Half of teachers report temp or unqualified cover

Teachers in primary schools facing difficulties with recruitment were polled on how they were addressing the challenges.

Forty-nine per cent said they had a class led by a short-term temporary, agency or non-qualified teacher.

Fifty-seven per cent said non-teachers were covering planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.

6. Teachers less likely to want to stick around

The proportion of teachers who reported that they expected to still be in the job in three years time has fallen to just 59 per cent, the lowest level since Teacher Tapp started asking the question in 2017.

The report warned that those in their first five years of teaching are “typically more susceptible to leaving the profession”.

“Alarmingly, it is among this group that intentions to remain a teacher have dropped the most, plummeting from 72 per cent in May 2022 to 55 per cent today.”

Of teachers in their first five years, just 64 per cent said they would opt to train as teachers again if faced with the same decision, down from 77 per cent last year.

7. Technician shortage causes alarm

Although there has been a slight decrease in the high numbers of adverts for art, science, technology and other technicians compared to last year, ongoing demand “remains high”.

The research found that such adverts were still 46 per cent higher than levels seen in pre-pandemic 2018-19.

It also noted “significant growth” in demand for technology and computer science technicians.

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3 Comments

  1. Nicky Ojo

    Reading this breaks my heart. What a damning indictment on the U.K. Government and associated Departments. We have in the U.K. some of the most dedicated, caring, compassionate, nurturing, creative and brilliant teachers and just look at the state of the profession I love. This will be the Government’s legacy. Of course they will leave many more trails of destruction but their absolute ruination of our teaching profession should haunt them.

    • Geeperz

      Sadly you have to have a conscience and the ability to accept responsibility for your own actions to make this work. It will not haunt them, there will be no knight in shinning armour to the rescue, despite many individual efforts of leaders, teachers and support staff. I’ve been longing to see a change in a positive direction for well over a decade. It’s not coming and it’s time to save myself. I’m out.

  2. Matthew

    I left teaching because schools are being run like corporations with the parents as the stockholders. Governors often appoint heads from the private sector (management) without consulting the staff and they try to run a school like a business.

    The choice model has empowered parents to make demands on the school that strip the teacher of authority in the classroom. And, of course, as long as mobile phones are allowed in schools, outcomes will remain poor.