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.”