New teachers in shortage subjects ‘should be first in line’ for pay rises

Extra funding for pay rises should be targeted at teachers who are early in their careers and working in shortage subjects, the Education Policy Institute has said.

This extra money in subjects like physics is needed to encourage them to remain in the profession, researchers claim.

The EPI’s report, ‘The teacher labour market: a perilous path ahead?’, warns that the government has focused too much on recruiting new teachers and not spent enough time looking at how to make them stay in the profession.

There is “strong empirical evidence” that targeting financial incentives in subjects where there is a shortage of teachers can help improve retention rates, but acknowledges that although schools can currently make these payments they are unable to do so due to budget pressures.

The government is currently under pressure to announce more funding for schools after it lifted the one-per-cent cap on public sector pay. Unions say teachers need a pay rise, but that it must be fully funded to schools can afford to award it.

The EPI wants officials to “consider targeting any additional funds” for schools into salary supplements for early career teachers in shortage subjects.

However, the proposal has attracted criticism from unions. Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of NAHT, warned that giving extra money to some teachers but not others would be “viewed as a kick in the teeth by many existing teachers”.

“A differential approach to pay will do nothing to improve retention and will sap the morale of existing teachers who have endured seven years of cuts to real pay,” he said.

“Lifting the pay cap for all roles in schools would be a start but it absolutely must be fully funded by the government because school budgets are already at breaking point.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU, said the report was “yet more evidence of the government’s failure to ensure there are enough teachers in our schools”.

“The NEU does not, however, agree with the EPI that the government should prioritise retention ahead of recruitment,” she went on. “It needs to stop tinkering around the edges and address both problems by cutting workload and offering better pay.”

Natalie Perera, executive director and head of research at the EPI, said the research shows that “growing shortages are likely to be tackled most effectively by focusing on retaining the existing workforce”.

“Some subjects in particular are seeing acute shortages in the number of quality teachers,” she said. “If the government wishes to ease these growing pressures and safeguard educational standards, it should consider policies which offer financial and other incentives to teachers in these subjects early on in their career.”

The number of teachers leaving jobs in state-funded schools in England and the number leaving are roughly the same.

However, pupil numbers are expected to grow by four per cent at primary level and 20 per cent at secondary by 2026, meaning a large number of additional teachers are needed, especially in EBacc subjects, which the government wants 90 per cent of pupils to study by 2025.

For example, the EPI estimates that the number of modern languages teachers will need to increase by 78 per cent by 2019-20.

Teacher leaving rates increased from eight per cent to nine per cent in primary schools and from 9.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent in secondary schools between 2010 and 2016. Only 60 per cent of teachers still work in a state-funded school five years after starting their training, with that number dropping to 50 per cent in subjects like physics and maths.

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