Recruitment and retention

Four tangible policy solutions to tackle the recruitment crisis

Rhys Howells sets out some low-hanging fruit for policy makers to start making a dent in the recruitment crisis

Rhys Howells sets out some low-hanging fruit for policy makers to start making a dent in the recruitment crisis

20 Jun 2023, 5:00

The recruitment and retention crisis in education is one of the most troubling and increasingly urgent challenges facing government. A plethora of issues have contributed to a perfect storm, with teacher training numbers dropping and schools struggling to retain qualified teachers.

Issues of pay, workloads and stress still remain to be addressed, but other overlooked factors have become barriers to people entering the workforce. By considering these factors, we can identify achievable policy solutions, including some relatively quick wins, that can begin to address some of the sector’s problems.

Better use of technology

With the proliferation of technology throughout modern life, people are accustomed to accessing almost everything instantaneously via their phones. Schools and colleges utilising technology effectively therefore achieve higher numbers of teacher applications, providing them with more choice and enabling higher-quality recruitment. We’ve seen first-hand that accessible applicant-friendly processes, such as fully mobile-optimised forms, increase completion rates by more than 50 per cent.

Despite reducing the drop-off rates of potential candidates who may get bored or frustrated with older systems, many application processes still fail to provide the ideal candidate experience. While it does differ between organisations, many other industries are making it easier to apply for roles than ever before, with application time in many sectors falling under five minutes. Benchmarking, guidance and implementation support for schools to improve the use of technology within applications would significantly boost recruitment efforts within the education sector.

Overseas teachers

More immediate relief from workforce pressures could be found among the tens of thousands of UK-trained teachers who now work abroad. Incentive packages with clear progression pathways could persuade these teachers to return and share their fantastic insight and skills from foreign education systems.

The government have recently introduced an international relocation payment to entice eligible non-UK trainees and teachers to relocate to the UK. Although this is progress, many are apprehensive of returning. What they fear is not our system’s accountability and workload, but prejudice against international teaching. Pay is a factor, but by altering our view of international experience we could access the talent of teachers who have worked in some of the world’s highest-performing schools.

Similarly, we must leverage other overseas teaching communities to lessen the strain. Since Brexit, the number of EU applicants awarded QTS has fallen dramatically. There were 4,795 in 2015-16, and 704 in 2021-22.Other countries such as Ireland and South Africa currently have a teacher surplus; attractive immigration pathways including teaching visas could allow us to access this foreign talent.

QTS barriers

One barrier preventing the successful recruitment of international teachers is the meticulous requirements of the QTS. While it is important to maintain teaching standards, case-by-case consideration (as within the independent sector) would widen the recruitment pool and ensure well experienced international teachers are not dismissed.

A shorter introductory course to UK education would provide overseas teachers with the relevant safeguarding training and curriculum information to enter the sector, instead of leaving them unable to work despite extensive experience.

Funding for training teachers

Financial support for entrants to the sector has improved, particularly in shortage subjects, but this should be extended. Income support for training teachers, for example placing them on a TA salary, could attract career changers with existing workplace knowledge.

It is a significant ask for experienced professionals with coveted skills to retrain without an income. As seen in social work and the police force, a salaried training programme can lead to significantly increased rates of people entering the sector.

Small, tangible policy changes such as these represent an opportunity to begin turning the tide on recruitment, if not retention, within the sector. The complexity of the issues means there is no single quick fix, so government must instead look to marginal gains that will slowly but surely support the growth of a sustainable, healthy education workforce.

More from this theme

Recruitment and retention

Six ideas from MPs to aid recruitment and retention

Government must 'use all the tools in the box' to resolve problems

Lucas Cumiskey
Recruitment and retention

Five key findings on teacher recruitment and retention

Cutting workload could have similar impact to raising pay, finds report

Lucas Cumiskey
Recruitment and retention

Trust plans for accountancy-style career path for teaching assistants

Route would be targeted at support staff who don't already hold a degree

Lucas Cumiskey
Recruitment and retention

Now Teach warns ‘axing funding will narrow trainee teacher pool’

The charity will stop recruiting for 2025, unless it can secure philanthropic funding

Freddie Whittaker
Recruitment and retention

DfE ‘inexplicably’ cuts back £10k teacher ‘relocation premium’

Grant to cover visa and health surcharge will only be available to qualified teachers and not trainees from next...

Lucas Cumiskey
Recruitment and retention

We need NHS-style long-term school workforce plan, says NIoT boss

Melanie Renowden wants to see education equivalent to health service's 15-year recruitment and retention plan

Lucas Cumiskey

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Robbie Tarn

    All those solutions avoid the real issues and will do nothing to make a dent in the need for trainees or to stem the massive exodus from the profession.

    Here’s what will work…

    1. Drastically reduce the top heavy (bloated) MATs and get those who feel confident to tell teachers how to teach back at the coalface. It will save a lot of money and we can have their much vaunted ‘expertise’ in the classroom where it will make a direct impact.

    2. Reduce Assistant Headteacher initiatives. Big secondaries have several of them all trying to climb the greasy pole with a new (pointless, time consuming and paperwork heavy) idea to help them fulfil their personal Performance Management goals – more engaging starters anyone?

    3. SLT – Leave teachers to get on with their jobs while you sort out behaviour. No matter how much you think a sparkling lesson is going to engage students; you don’t stand a chance unless the students understand there are rules that mean their inappropriate behaviours will not be tolerated and that they are there to learn. You are there to support your colleagues not over the students.

    4. Stop bullying teachers.

    5. Stop observing teachers. It has no impact on improving learning and it just comes across as a way for you to make a colleague look worse than they actually are. Deal with your own insecurities away from the workplace instead of taking it out on your colleagues.

    • Spanner

      This article appears to feed into government rhetoric. For example, recruiting from overseas with an alleged £10k golden handshake. This ‘policy’ blatantly shows that the government are tickety boo with 10 years of pay cuts and would rather throw money at foreign cohorts that have zero experience in a British classroom (I was threatened by students and physically treated by 2 parents on Friday, as apparently his ASD absconds him from discouraging his extremely dangerous behaviour. But it’s fine to treat a teacher like something they’ve scrapped off their shoe!), so how long does this golden handcuff tie them to UK education system? Given how many UK trainees leave with 5 years, what do you think their chances are? Retention is vital. Stop treating us like the enemy. Work with us and make education inviting. We’re hardly a resource rich country and ignorance will cost this country far more than a working education system.

  2. Look to hire a primary trained teacher – there have been fewer vacancies in the primary sector this year than in recent years, so some trainees are still likely to be job hunting and returners may find jobs difficult to secure.
    However, to make better use of those trained as primary school class teachers in the job market to work as a teacher, the DfE should consider reintroducing a short-term conversion course from primary to secondary school teaching.
    The course could balance enhancing subject knowledge and application with the differences between class and subject teaching, and issues such as approaches to likely challenges. Primary trained teachers have ‘A’ levels, and a focus on subjects where there are shortages would release secondary trained teachers to focus on KS4 & 5 while these teachers worked primarily in Key Stage 3.
    Assuming that the most able ITT graduates have already secured teaching posts for September, this type of course would also provide an extra 12 weeks of support for these new teachers, rather than leaving them to their own devices before they secured a teaching post.
    Such courses could be organised by national bodies, such as Teach First or the National Institute of Teaching, but might be better arranged locally for a discrete geographical area facing recruitment challenges by a consortium of schools and trusts working with an ITT provider and a local authority.
    Funding from the DfE for such a course could be at a third of an ITT course, plus a weekly salary for participants based upon the bottom point of the qualified Teacher Salary scale as they would be qualified teachers. The DfE could fund a trial course using unspent ITT funds resulting from the unfilled places on courses during 2022-23.