Give good teachers secondments in challenging schools, says new report

Teachers are reluctant to move to challenging schools in case their workload increases, while headteachers do not want to lose staff to “competitor” schools in the area, according to a new study.

The research, commissioned by the government, has said high achieving teachers should be offered secondment opportunities in challenging schools to challenge their perceptions and encourage them to move jobs to such schools, which often struggle with recruitment and retainment.

The findings from CFE Research, based on a series of interviews with teachers and headteachers, said there is a need to provide “immersive experiences” in these schools for teachers with “excellent track records”, many of whom have no experience of working in a challenging school.

The Department for Education’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy said the government wanted to encourage “good teachers to work, stay and develop where the need is greatest”, and introduced a range of incentives for teachers in challenging schools.

Teachers expressed a reluctance to relocate under the study, but suggested they would be interested in working in a challenging school in commuting distance. However, many headteachers of standalone schools did not want their teachers to move to a “direct competitor in the area” as they compete for pupils and funding.

Although heads of multi-academy trusts were more likely to have a “wider responsibility towards education in the local area”, the report found that this attitude “did not appear to expand outside of their trust, as they felt barriers of competition, finance and a shortage in capacity would exist if teachers moved to schools outside their trust”.

The study found that the majority of teachers and NQTs had no experience of challenging schools – defined by the participants as those with low Ofsted grades and/or in areas of deprivation – as their training had not involved working in them, meaning many were unsure they had the ability to be successful in a challenging school.

Despite having no experience of working in the schools, the study found many teachers associated challenging schools with more demands on their time due to low aspirations, poor pupil behaviour, a lack of parent support and additional scrutiny.

Headteachers expressed concerns about encouraging their staff to move to challenging schools, particularly in creating a capacity shortage in their own schools and the expense and challenge of recruiting new staff, while teachers said “school ethos” was an important factor and financial incentives would be “attractive” but not the “most prominent factor” in any decision to move schools.

“Many teachers suggested that they would consider moving to schools in challenging circumstances for professional development, and if they felt their skillset and experience would be impactful for that specific school.”

The report said there were “significant barriers” to the idea of teachers moving to schools in challenging circumstances and it would be a “simplification” to solely rely on shadowing and secondment opportunities. However, it would be a “powerful start” and would allow teachers to experience challenging schools “without the risk associated with making a long-term commitment”.