NFER: Extend ‘levelling-up’ retention payments to all deprived schools

Report also warns 6.5% pay rise won't solve teacher recruitment and retention woes on its own

Report also warns 6.5% pay rise won't solve teacher recruitment and retention woes on its own

Teacher retention incentives for those working in the government’s “education investment areas” should be redirected to the schools in the most deprived areas nationally, the National Foundation for Educational Research has said.

Its analysis found “little difference between teacher supply challenges faced by schools in EIAs compared to those that are not”.

At the same time, it found “considerable differences faced by schools with different levels of pupil eligibility for free school meals”.

The report also warned a mooted 6.5 per cent pay rise for teachers next year is “unlikely to make a significant overall difference” to teacher supply on its own, as the government prepares to publish its final decision.

Official figures show the government missed its secondary teacher recruitment target by over 40 per cent last year, also falling short of its primary target.

Subject-specific teacher training bursaries “have provided some level of remedy to the supply challenges, but in recent years this has not been enough to ensure sufficient teacher supply”, NFER’s report found.

The government has also been running a scheme of “levelling-up” retention payments for teachers in certain subjects teaching in its education investment areas – parts of the country with the lowest educational outcomes.

Funding for these payments comes to an end in 2024-25, and NFER said this presented an “opportunity to redesign early career payment policy”.

The government should redesign the payments by “widening eligibility to all schools nationally and increasing payment generosity to enhance its impact, and targeting resource towards shortage subjects and schools serving disadvantaged communities”.

6.5% rise won’t solve teacher supply issues

The Department for Education is still yet to announce its pay offer for teachers for 2023. The School Teachers’ Review Body is understood to have recommended a 6.5 per cent average rise.

There has also been speculation prime minister Rishi Sunak could ignore recommedations from pay bodies, and reports that chancellor Jeremy Hunt expects departments to make cuts elsewhere to fund pay rises.

Geoff Barton
Geoff Barton

NFER said a 6.5 per cent rise would be a “welcome first step for addressing the lost competitiveness in teachers’ pay over the last decade”.

But if pay awards next year and in the future “merely match the anticipated growth in average earnings in the wider labour market then they are unlikely to significantly address the pressing recruitment and retention challenges”, NFER warned.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said a 6.5 per cent pay rise would be a “step in the right direction provided there is adequate funding for schools to be able to afford the pay award”.

“However, as it stands, the government has not even agreed to this figure, let alone committed to anything remotely resembling a long-term strategy to address teacher shortages. In fact, reports suggest the prime minister is arguing that it should be much less.”

Upsides and downsides to ‘flattened’ pay

Ministers’ pledge to increase teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 has meant sharper rises in recent years for teachers early on in their career.

The NFER said further “flattening” of the main pay scale “may be relatively cost effective because it targets resource at teachers who are more responsive to changes in pay”.

However, it warned pay flattening “also has implications for the incentives to progress and the balance of early career and more experienced teachers within the school system”.

Setting the pay of primary and secondary teachers separately and increasing secondary teacher pay, which is not something that has been proposed by the government, “may also be relatively cost effective, when comparing just the total costs and teacher supply impacts”.

However, primary teachers “are likely to regard such proposals as unfair and our analysis suggests that such a proposal would be forecasted to considerably increase the gender pay gap within the school sector”.

Long-term strategy needed

The report recommended a new long-term pay and financial incentives strategy, and said political parties should set out in their 2024 manifestos “what teacher pay and financial incentive measures they intend to implement to address the teacher supply challenge”.

Jack Worth
Jack Worth

The DfE should also publish the “overall forecasted teacher supply impact of its pay and financial incentive proposals”.

And where an impact assessment suggests supply is unlikely to be met, the DfE should “set out the financial and non-financial actions being taken to improve teacher supply, particularly in subjects not expected to reach their respective targets”.

Senior workforce lead Jack Worth said the evidence on teacher recruitment and retention “makes a clear and compelling case for the need for a new long-term strategy on teacher pay and financial incentives to address the intense teacher supply challenge”.

“As a bare minimum, an effective strategy needs to increase teacher pay by more than the rate of pay growth in the wider economy, expand the set of targeted financial incentives that are currently in place, and ideally both.”

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