Schools offer £10k ‘golden hellos’ – but with a big catch

Can payments that reward those who stay in the job help schools recruit and retain teachers? 

Can payments that reward those who stay in the job help schools recruit and retain teachers? 

12 May 2023, 5:00

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Schools are offering “golden hello” payments of up to £10,000 to attract teachers in shortage subjects – but only if they complete up to three years in the job.

The proportion of schools offering such recruitment and retention incentives fell from nearly one in 10 in 2018 to eight per cent in 2021, workforce census data shows.

But there seems to have been a recent spate of adverts for jobs advertising strings-attached golden hello payments.

And data from job search website Indeed for Schools Week shows education jobs offering sign-up bonuses increased from 0.1 per cent in April 2021 to one per cent this month.

However, the signing-on fees also have elements of “golden handcuff” payments – with staff only able to get the cash after completing up to three years in the job.

The Howard Academy Trust, which runs seven schools in Kent, has 15 live teaching roles being advertised with a £5,000 ‘golden hello’. They were first introduced last academic year.

However, just half of this would be paid on completion of a six-month probation, and the other half in September 2024 as a “retention incentive”.

This is also “subject to the successful candidate remaining at the school for at least that next year”.

Schools change tactics amid supply crisis

Kyle Taylor, the trust’s finance and operations director, said even though its schools have “very good reputations”, they have had to change tactics.

“It’s not that people don’t want to work here … but five years ago there was a lot more of a field to recruit from.”

The payments are on offer for both national shortage subjects and those the schools have struggled to fill, including English, geography and PE.

“I think the reality for most teaching jobs, particularly in secondary school … you’re probably very lucky to get two quality applicants for a role,” Taylor added.

As of Thursday, education jobs site TES was advertising 23 roles in English schools that included the phrase ‘golden hello’. A further 229 roles included the phrase ‘recruitment incentive’.

Examples include a £10,000 bonus across three years for a class teacher at Osborne Primary School in Birmingham. Under the incentive, £2,000 is paid after year one, £2,000 after year two and £6,000 at the end of year three.

Others come with caveats such as asking for bonuses to be reimbursed if a teacher leaves within a certain timeframe.

Adding incentives ‘had an impact’

The Hampstead School, in north London, launched a similar tactic last year, adding incentives to job adverts after initial rounds of recruitment had returned no candidates.

“It has had an impact in a small number of cases where we’ve used it,” said headteacher Matthew Sadler, adding that the scheme was being kept “under review”.

A job advert for a computing teacher at the school offers a five per cent “incentive” on their salary for a maximum of three years “because we recognise that great Computing and ICT teachers are in demand”.

Some 36,262 state school teachers – 8.1 per cent – left the profession in 2021, a rise of 12.4 per cent on the previous year.

Among newly qualified teachers, the number who left within one year rose from 11.7 per cent in 2020, to 12.5 per cent in 2021.

Meanwhile, the government is predicted to recruit fewer than half of the required secondary school teachers this year – which would be the lowest since records began in 2010.

The government previously ran a “golden hello” scheme for priority subject teachers, however this ended in 2019.

More recently several retention payment schemes have been run to get the best new teachers into the most deprived schools. The most recent scheme has been badged as a £3,000 “levelling up” premium.

Evidence suggests they have a positive impact on retention.

But move could force other schools to follow suit

School teachers’ pay and conditions allows for payments as an “incentive for the recruitment of new teachers and the retention in their service of existing teachers”.

But John Howson, chair of TeachVac, said this could force other schools to offer the same “or risk losing out”.

He also added: “If most schools offer [incentives], it effectively becomes a salary increase for new staff and existing teachers might look to move school … in order to receive a recruitment bonus.”

There are also questions around affordability with teacher pay rises challenging tight budgets.

Taylor said his trust had cut a teacher recruitment service subscription to help fund the bonuses.

Sadler said the payments are affordable because they can cut out agency spend and interventions for pupils without specialists teacher who then fall behind.

Jack Worth, the National Foundation for Educational Research’s (NFER) lead economist, said such bonuses are likely to attract applicants to individual schools. But he added: “I doubt such arrangements would have much of a system-wide impact, being at the small scale of a school or trust.”

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  1. Shaun

    Golden hellos are one thing, but what about those who have been in the job for a while…why would they stay.

    Teaching a STEM subject is basically a mug’s game…a well qualified graduate can earn way more in industry, have less work at home in the evening/weekend and have a social life…as a Head of dept in my 50s I earn just over 50K, my partner’s son, less than 30 for a scientific company, 68K…go figure what recruitment has failed, and retention is nearly non existent.

  2. Blossom

    I’ve been in the same school as a full time teacher for 23 years, so what about those of us that have been committed to the job and the school for the long term?

  3. Patrick Obikwu

    Teacher recruitment and retention has been a problem for many years, possibly decades.
    The inability of successive governments to address the problem once and for all shows a lack of commitment, willingness, capacity, and competence. In essence no one has thought it necessary to ask the question WHY is teacher recruitment such a problem and WHY is there such a high rate of teacher attrition? Failure to ask these questions show that no one in government actually cares.
    Cash inducements will not solve the teacher recruitment and retention crises. Below are some of the factors I feel are directly or indirectly responsible for teacher shortages in schools (secondary in particular).
    1. Here-today-gone-tomorrow government interference: endless raft of initiatives, meddling with school curricula, changing education policy with every new minister of education many/most of who do not have a background in education and were last in a classroom when they sat their GCSE.
    2. Schemes of Work: ditto 1.
    3. Teachers’ wellbeing (or lack of): ditto 1 – 30
    4. Lack of human and material resources
    5. School Day
    6. Lesson Schedule and Timings
    7. Delivery of lessons: (over prescriptive hence restrictive) upload, offload, reload, download, platforms, programs, videos, worksheets etc meanwhile foundational learning skills – basic literacy, numeracy, reading, writing, and attention span – are declining as fast as technology is expanding and being embraced into teaching and learning.
    8. Students Wellbeing (or lack of): ditto 9, 27, 30
    9. Students’ negative attitude towards learning (passing exams): ditto 27
    10. Government Policy: ditto 1.
    11. Hidden Curriculum: ditto 1.
    12. Incompetent, ineffective school leadership and management
    13. School operations – ineffective deployment of inadequate human resources: ditto 12
    14. Socio-cultural influences: Ofsted; ditto 1, 11
    15. School culture: ditto 12
    16. Complete lack of discipline: Unruly disrespectful behaviour of students
    17. Undervalue and constant (overt and covert) denigration of teachers and the teaching profession.
    18. Low pay
    19. Bullying of teachers: ditto 12; and head teachers/principals: ditto 14
    20. Incompetent teachers on becoming head teachers acting like tin gods
    21. Teacher workload: ditto 1-30
    22. Introducing into teaching every fad from every other profession from every self-proclaimed expert
    23. Lack of teacher support
    24. Expectation that every teacher MUST also be proficient: IT and technology expert, data analyst, examiner, marker, futurist, assessment specialist, curriculum developer, strategist, researcher, child psychologists, instructor, multi-linguist, EAL specialist, SEN specialist, guardian or parent (even if you do not have a child of your own), encyclopaedia, role model, mentor, communicator, lesson planner, pedagogue, diplomat, gifted and talented, organiser, advisor, counsellor, email vanguard, PG student, letter writer, time keeper, first aid specialist, break-time supervisor, end-of-school usher, child monitor, psychic, comedian, actor/actress/, UN peace-maker/peace-keeper, translator, photocopier, telephone receptionist, child-minder/baby-sitter, social worker, behaviour specialist, prison warden, police officer, psychiatrist, mental health specialist, attendance officer, administrative officers, zoo keeper, nurse, and of course scapegoat.
    25. Cronyism, nepotism and favouritism of useless principals and head teachers towards their servile favourite teachers.
    26. Career stagnation.
    27. Over-testing of students/focus on certification rather than education: ditto 8
    28. Marketisation of education
    29. Endless and mostly useless PD
    30. Technology/Social media/Instagram/TickTok etc
    No one goes into any profession to be insulted, assaulted, abused, disrespected, denigrated, bullied, oppressed, harassed, humiliated, or underpaid. But this is the experience of most teachers. Indeed, teaching (and a few other professions in the UK) is a form of modern slavery. From the above list of issues it is obvious that financial inducements alone will not solve the problem of attracting more people into the teaching profession nor stop others from leaving. The education system needs a complete overhaul by those who actually know what education is.

  4. Chris

    It’s all lies. When I trained as a teacher I was told I would get a £5000 golden hello. Being over 50 when I completed my training I could get a lot of agency work but schools were not forthcoming with permanent jobs. Now been teaching for 13 years, still not got it. There is always 1 little clause they don’t tell you about you have to get a permanent job within 6 months of completion of your teacher training.

  5. Georgina Kosanovic

    Having taught in both this country and in Ontario, Canada, I can tell you that they would need to do a lot more here to make teaching an attractive option for graduates.
    In Ontario, not only is the salary higher in terms of buying power, a great deal less is expected of the teachers, they have more autonomy, and they have excellent benefits (paid for supplementary health care – on top of the provincial free health care system [NHS equivalent] and one of the most powerful pension plans in the world, for example). Due to these great benefits, and relatively pleasant working conditions, students vie for teacher training places at universities, and only the best are likely to gain admission.