Schools in poorest areas have up to 100 extra sick days, plus 3 more EPI teacher shortage findings

The Education Policy Institute today has released a report probing the teacher shortages and pay in England. 

Report author Luke Sibieta raised concerns the government’s big pledge to boost teacher starting salaries up to £30,000 will solve the challenges faced by disadvantaged schools in retaining and recruiting high-quality teachers.

Here’s four key findings:


1. Teachers in disadvantaged schools more likely to be sick or absent

The EPI estimates that these schools could lose up to 100 extra days due to sickness in secondary schools.

Teachers in the most disadvantaged schools outside London are sick or absent 5.2 days per year, on average, which compares with 3.5 days per year in the least disadvantaged schools. 

This sickness could be a leading sign of stress or workload problems, the report said. 

Absence and sickness levels are generally low in London and the South East. It is higher, on average, in local authorities around Yorkshire and the Humber (North Yorkshire and Kirklees in particular), parts of the North West (Halton, Bury and St Helens) as well as some eastern cities (Nottingham and Peterborough).


2. Schools with poorer pupils also find it much harder to fill teaching vacancies

The report says just over 20 per cent of schools in the least disadvantaged areas reported vacancies or temporarily filled positions. This then increases to about 30 per cent of schools in the most disadvantaged areas outside of London, and about 46 per cent of schools in disadvantaged areas in London. 

The government has missed it secondary school teacher recruitment target for seven years running.


3. DfE pledge to hike starting salaries to £30k should help …

The EPI said depending on the economy, this could rank teachers amongst the best paid “major professional occupations” (such as nurses, managers and lawyers), on average, for individuals starting out in their careers.

A pay rise for more experienced and other teachers, lower than the 23 per cent increase in starting salaries, will lead to a flatter salary schedule for teachers. 

“This is well aligned to empirical evidence, which suggests that higher starting salaries and a flatter salary schedule can lead to significant improvements in teacher retention,” the report stated.


4. … but EPI says it still isn’t enough (so here’s what needs to happen)

The report stated schools with large numbers of new teachers – of which many are disadvantaged schools – need to receive sufficient resources to pay for higher starting salaries. 

One way of doing this could be through changes to the national funding formula and ensuring that the overall distribution of additional funding for schools remains progressive. 

They say other ideas like extending retention incentives of £2,000 per year to existing early career teachers in shortage subjects would help keep existing early career teachers at risk of leaving, as well as the new teachers. 

The government could also double the extra payments for teaching in “challenging areas” to £2,000 per year, extend them to existing teachers and focus these on the most disadvantaged 20 to 25 per cent of schools.

They believe these would have high impact, and be relatively inexpensive for the government, costing under £55m. The current scheme costs about £20m.