Expand teacher recruitment plan to include support staff, says NFER

Researchers say wider education workforce strategy is now needed to deal with recruitment pressures across all school roles

Researchers say wider education workforce strategy is now needed to deal with recruitment pressures across all school roles

Ministers should widen the scope of their recruitment and retention strategy to cater for support staff, a new report has said.

The government promised this week to update its key teacher workforce plan, first published in 2019, “this winter”. This would include setting out “priorities for the coming years”.

But the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said ministers should expand its scope into a wider education workforce strategy.

The recommendation was in a new report, published today, showing most headteachers had teaching assistants who were taking up additional employment during the cost-of-living crisis.

Ruth Maisey, programme head of the Nuffield Foundation which funded the study, said: “Teaching assistants play a critical role within schools, running intervention groups to improve children’s outcomes and supporting teachers with a heavy workload.

“It’s vital for pupils and teaching staff alike that a schools’ workforce strategy incorporates teaching assistants and support staff, as well as teachers and leaders.”

More than 7 in 10 senior leaders reported TAs leaving their school because they can earn more in another job, such as retail and hospitality.

Last year, TA starting salaries were just over £20,000.

Nearly half of secondary school leaders report low salaries are the single biggest barrier to recruiting TAs.

One leader told the study: “TA pay is appalling. We cannot offer salaries that are an incentive. The school budget cannot sustain the increase in costs without letting high quality staff members leave.”

Around three-quarters of leaders said TAs are now taking second jobs for the first time, the study found.

Jenna Julius, NFER research director and report co-author, said the pressures are “intensifying existing recruitment and retention challenges”.

“A new long-term workforce strategy, including teaching assistants, school support staff and tutors, alongside teachers and leaders, is needed. For wider support staff, this should include looking at whether pay is competitive enough to attract and retain sufficient high-quality staff.”

However Schools Week understands widening the scope of the recruitment plan as part of the refresh this year is unlikely to be considered.

The NFER study surveyed more than 2,500 senior leaders and teachers.

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