1.On the basis of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, we took evidence from the Department for Education (the Department) about retaining and developing the teaching workforce. We also took evidence from two headteachers (the first from Thistley Hough Academy, Stoke-on-Trent, and the second from Roundwood Park School, Harpenden), from the Chartered College of Teaching (the new professional body for teachers), and from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).
2.At November 2016 some 457,300 teachers worked in the state-funded sector in England, mainly in primary and secondary schools. In the year to November 2016, 43,830 teachers (10.1% of the workforce) joined the teaching workforce, including 24,120 newly qualified teachers and 14,200 qualified teachers returning to the state-funded sector. In the same period 42,830 teachers (9.9% of the workforce) left the workforce.
3.The Department is accountable for securing value for money from spending on education services. It distributes funding to schools using formulae set by local authorities. Schools spend around £21 billion a year on teaching staff, more than half of their total spending. As employers, schools play a crucial role in retaining and developing teachers. The Department has a range of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of teachers, supporting the retention of teachers and ensuring that teachers are deployed where they are needed most. The Department spent £35.7 million on these activities in 2016–17 and plans to increase spending to around £70 million on average each year between 2017–18 and 2019–20.
4.The teaching workforce increased by 15,500 (3.5%) from 441,800 in November 2010 to 457,300 in November 2016. However, this overall rise masks the fact that the number of teachers in secondary schools fell by 10,800 (4.9%) from 219,000 in 2010 to 208,200 in 2016. The Department told us that class sizes had remained constant, with the same pupil-teacher ratio as 10 or 20 years ago, because pupil and teacher numbers had kept in step with each other. The number of pupils of primary and nursery age in state-funded schools increased by 598,000 (14.6%) in the six years to January 2017, and this larger number is now moving into secondary education. After a reduction between 2011 and 2015, the number of pupils of secondary school age has since begun to increase. The National Audit Office report noted that in primary schools the pupil-teacher ratio has remained fairly constant since 2011, with 20.6 pupils to every teacher in 2016; however, in secondary schools the ratio increased from 14.9 pupils per teacher in 2011 to 15.6 pupils per teacher in 2016 even though pupil numbers fell. The Department forecasts that secondary school pupil numbers will increase by 540,000 (19.4%) between 2017 and 2025, and that pupil-teacher ratios will continue to rise.
5.The number of qualified teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement increased by 2.1 percentage points from 6.0% (25,260) of the qualified workforce in 2011 to 8.1% (34,910) in 2016. The NASUWT told us that around two-thirds of teachers whom they surveyed last year reported that they were seriously considering leaving the teaching profession and had seriously considered doing so in the last 12 months. Evidence from the National Education Union reported results from a March 2016 survey that 61% of secondary teachers and 48% of primary teachers were considering leaving the profession within the next two years.
6.The Department does not know enough about why more teachers are leaving before retirement. It told us that it has a better understanding than it previously did of why teachers leave the profession, including from research by the National Foundation for Educational Research and from discussions with school leaders. The Department considers that workload is one of the factors, along with access to good opportunities for progression and support for professional development.
7.There are two phases in their career when teachers are most likely to leave: in the first three years after qualifying and as they approach retirement. The Wellcome Trust told us, in written evidence, that its research had found that science teachers were more likely to leave the profession than non-science teachers, and that this was particularly true for newly qualified teachers. The Department said that it did not understand the differences in the reasons why teachers leave at different points in their career. However, in its workload analysis, the Department had found that teachers at an earlier stage in their careers tended to work longer.
8.One of the headteachers told us that unreasonable levels of workload, and the impact this had on teachers’ ability to do their jobs well, was the main reason for teachers leaving. NASUWT said that the main reasons for teachers leaving were pay, workload and the management or employer practices of schools. Written evidence from the National Association of Head Teachers noted that a survey of its members had found that the top two reasons for leaving prematurely were workload (mentioned by 84% of respondents) and achieving a better work-life balance (83% of respondents). And written evidence from the National Education Union reported that the main reason why teachers consider leaving the profession was workload (cited by 90% of secondary teachers and 93% of primary teachers), with other reasons including the pace of curriculum change and rising class sizes.
9.The Department has a range of small initiatives to retain and develop teachers but has limited evidence as to whether they are making a difference. It noted that some initiatives had been more effective than others and some had failed; the ‘return to teaching’ pilot was an example of an initiative which had not worked as well as planned. The headteachers told us that they engaged successfully with teaching schools which lead alliances of schools offering training and support to each other. They had heard about the Chartered College of Teaching but were not aware of, or did not know in detail about, other initiatives listed in the National Audit Office report. The Department said that it had been trying to do too many small scale things. It told us that it saw an opportunity to take a more streamlined, more strategic approach, and it was developing a plan to be ready by the end of 2017–18.
10.The Department agreed with us that the balance of investment had not been right with around £555 million spent each year on training new teachers and just £36 million spent on programmes to retain and develop the existing teaching workforce. It said that more support was clearly needed for schools on retention. It also told us that it was carrying out a detailed evaluation of bursaries for new teachers, as requested by the previous Committee, and would report the results in summer 2018.
11.One of the headteachers explained that increased workload was caused by rising class sizes, the pace of change in assessment and curriculum, and extra work as a result of the financial savings which schools were having to make. The headteachers told us that contact time is too high; teachers are having to teach more hours, leaving less time during normal working hours for other tasks such as planning and marking. They said that increasing workload reduced the quality of what teachers could do which in turn adversely affected their job satisfaction, work-life balance and wellbeing.
12.The Department published guidance on its website to help schools reduce workload in 2015. It told us that only half of schools had used the tools; of those, 32% had reduced workload (by up to two hours per teacher per week). The National Education Union reported that, in a March 2016 survey, 75% of primary teachers and 74% of secondary teachers said their workload had increased since the Government’s response to the workload challenge in February 2015.
13.The Department’s survey, published in February 2017, found that classroom teachers and ‘middle leaders’ reported that they worked 54.4 hours on average during the reference week. Alongside the survey results, the Department published an action plan to reduce unnecessary workload. We asked the Department if it had a target in mind for reducing teacher workload. It told us that it did not want to tell teachers how many hours to work, as this was a matter for each headteacher to decide, but it did want to help teachers to minimise the amount of unproductive work.
14.During 2015–16 school leaders filled only around half of their vacant posts with qualified teachers with the experience and expertise required. The Department highlighted that schools were struggling particularly to recruit teachers in science, maths and modern foreign languages. It told us that it was making 5,000 training places available in the next year in maths, physics and modern foreign languages to give teachers who currently taught other subjects the skills to teach those subjects as well. The Department also said that it was introducing a pilot for new teachers studying science or modern foreign languages, under which it would forgive them the cost of their student loans in the first 10 years of their career. It had also introduced a new bursary that gave trainee maths teachers £20,000 up front, and two early career payments of £5,000 after their third year in the profession and after their fifth year, provided that they kept teaching maths.
15.The Department has identified the supply of teachers of modern foreign languages, and maths and sciences subjects as likely to be particularly affected by the UK leaving the European Union. It told us that about 3.5% of secondary school teachers are from elsewhere in the European Union. The Department said that its job was to make sure that the decision-makers were well informed about the extent to which the school system benefited from these teachers, and that it was liaising with those involved in the negotiations about the UK’s exit from the European Union.
16.We also asked the Department if it was addressing the visa rules for recruiting teachers from outside the European Union, which require teachers to have a minimum salary. The Department told us that it was making representations to the Migration Advisory Committee about the possibility of adding more subjects to the shortage occupation list and the salary which teachers must earn to qualify for a visa.
17.The extent of teacher vacancies varies across England. In 2015 the North East had the lowest proportion of secondary schools reporting at least one vacancy (16.4%); the highest proportions were in outer London (30.4%), the South East (26.4%) and the East of England (25.3%). The Department stopped the National Teaching Service, which aimed to place teachers into underperforming schools that struggled with recruitment and retention, after the pilot matched only 24 teachers to schools in the North West. The Department told us that the pilot had shown that £10,000 did not incentivise enough teachers to move. It also acknowledged that it had tried to implement the scheme too quickly. The Committee questioned whether the Department had considered relocation costs when it fixed the incentive payment at £10,000.
18.One of the headteachers and the NASUWT referred to the increasing cost of recruitment. We have heard that it can cost up to £5,000 to advertise, and to recruit through an agency can cost in the region of £5,000 for a newly-qualified teacher, rising to between £8,000 and £9,000 for an experienced teacher. After the evidence session Tes wrote to us and stated that the average cost of advertising a secondary school vacancy with it is now under £1,000. The Department told us that it planned to launch a pilot of a web-based national teacher vacancy service in spring 2018, with the aim of reducing the cost of recruitment and generating better data on vacancies. It would then develop the service in response to the market. The Department also said that it was working with the Crown Commercial Service to develop a framework contract as a cheaper alternative to schools using recruitment agencies.
19.There is a large pool of trained teachers, 243,900 aged under 60 at the end of 2015, who are not currently teaching and could fill vacancies. The number of teachers returning to state-funded schools increased by 1,100 to 14,200 between 2011 and 2016. The headteachers told us that more support was needed for flexible working—barriers to schools employing returning teachers included additional cost and the challenge of timetabling when teachers worked flexibly. The Department emphasised that it needed to target support at teachers who would not otherwise return to the profession, but acknowledged that it needed to do more to work with the sector to address concerns that schools had about taking back teachers who had been out of the classroom for a long time. The Department published guidance on flexible working in February 2017 and told us that it had held a summit with schools to share good practice, and that it would update its guidance in 2018.
20.The National Audit Office’s survey of school leaders found that, after workload, factors affecting the cost of living (for example house prices) were the second most significant barrier to teacher retention, with 42% of respondents reporting it as a barrier. We heard that the cost of living in certain parts of the country made it difficult to attract and retain teachers. Committee Members highlighted the high cost of housing in Oxfordshire and Cambridgshire as a barrier to retaining teachers locally. The Department told us that it is aware of the challenge that schools face in keeping teachers who want to start a family in areas where house prices are rising. It has given schools flexibility to vary pay and allowances to help them recruit and retain teachers, but many are not using these flexibilities. The Department confirmed that, on the whole, schools were cautious about using the flexibilities and tended to stay with the standards across the system.
21.The previous Committee raised concerns about the lack of affordable housing in some parts of the country which was affecting the supply of NHS clinical staff. We asked the Department if it had considered using land that it pays for to help provide affordable housing for teachers. It told us that it had had discussions with individual multi-academy trusts and local authorities about such initiatives and was willing to talk to any schools with proposals to support teachers with housing. However, it did not have any particular initiatives to address cost of living issues.
1 Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, , Session 2017–19, HC 307, 12 September 2017
2 , Figure 1
3 , para 3
4 , para 13
5 , para 1.2
6 Qq 71, 73, 169
7 , para’s 1.2–1.3
8 , para 2.6
9 Q 1
10 National Education Union (), p. 4
11 , paras 2.5, 2.7
12 Q 68
13 , para 2.5
14 Wellcome Trust ()
15 Q 69
16 Q 2; Alan Henshall ()
17 Q 1
18 National Association of Head Teachers (), para 4
19 National Education Union (), p. 4
20 , paras 13–14
21 Qq 71, 132
22 Qq 7, 8; , para’s 3.14–3.15, Figure 17
23 Qq 132–134
24 Q 67; Committee of Public Accounts, , Third Report of Session 2016–17, HC 73, 10 June 2016
25 Q 2
26 Qq 38–40; Alan Henshall ()
27 Qq 2–3; Alan Henshall ()
28 Q 70; , para 2.13
29 National Education Union (), page 4
30 , para 2.13
31 Qq 80–82
32 , para 2.23 & Figure 10
33 Qq 104, 106
34 , para 1.5
35 Q 105
36 Qq 143–147
37 , para 2.26, Figure 12
38 Qq 111–113; C&AG’s Report, para 2.30–2.32
39 Q 156
40 Qq 30, 34
41 Q 148; , 5 December 2017
42 Qq 76, 84, 140, 150
43 Qq 148–149
44 , para 2.18–2.19, Figure 8
45 Qq 4–7
46 Qq 71–72, 107–110; , para 2.20
47 , Figure 7
48 Qq 29–30; National Education Union (), page 3
49 Q 96
50 Q 97
51 Qq 1, 83, 95; , para 2.15
52 Committee of Public Accounts, , Fortieth Report of Session 2015–16, HC 731, 11 May 2016
53 Qq 96–103, 166–167
29 January 2018