Blog: Recruiting and retaining teachers

“One of my most urgent tasks is, therefore, to look at the barriers that can drive teachers, and leaders, out of the profession and may put people off in the first place. Top of the list here is workload.”  (Damian Hinds, former Education secretary, May 2018 NAHT Conference).

This month’s newsletter has this context above as its starting point, but has really been inspired by my recent experiences of interviewing several excellent candidates for their first post in teaching, embarking on and supported by the early career framework (ECF).  Their passion and understanding of their new profession, its challenges and rewards influenced this month’s reflections.

I have chosen some comments extracted from radio, TV and newspapers that highlight some key factors around recruitment and retention.  The issues below are not new, although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created a period of great change in schools and elsewhere. They are not exhaustive, but I hope they are thought provoking.


Quality of teaching

Last year, the government announced that trainees would get an unlimited number of attempts at passing the compulsory skills tests in an effort to ease the teacher recruitment crisis.

The number of unqualified teachers has also risen by more than 60 percent to 24,000, up from 14,800 in 2012, when the government removed a requirement for teachers to be qualified in the specific subjects they cover.


Funding crisis

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in 2019 found that “total school spending per pupil in England has fallen by 8 percent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18”.


Teacher shortages

The charity Save the children revealed: “Nursery schools face a shortage of nearly 11,000 qualified early years teachers in England, figures reveal.”

The analysis, based on government data, said 47,000 more teachers will be needed in the next six years to keep in line with the average secondary pupil-teacher ratio (15.1 pupils per teacher).

Although the topics outlined above hardly touch the surface of the problems facing schools, they help to realign our focus and I have had several opportunities to partake in professional discussions with colleagues around their many aspects.

The government seems to understand many of the issues with some recent initiatives, so I want to finish as I began, with some positivity. As schools face the issues at the centre of recruitment and retention, policies like the ECF will be essential for supporting new teachers during their first two years and should provide bespoke training and development opportunities. This is vital to ensure that new teachers do not leave our profession and maintain the passion shown at interview.  For experienced teachers, the updated national professional qualifications (NPQs) can provide development opportunities as their careers progress.  If these initiatives are appropriately funded, they could become a key support for both recruitment and retention of teachers.

So, I will finish with a quote from the ECF:

“Therefore, for national roll-out, we have committed to:

  • Funding and guaranteeing 5% off-timetable in the second year of teaching for all early career teachers; early career teachers will continue to have a 10% timetable reduction in their first year of induction.
  • Creating high quality, freely available ECF curricula and training materials;
  • Establishing full, high quality ECF training programmes;
  • Funding time for mentors to support early career teachers; and
  • Fully funded mentor training.”


Properly funded now and over time, the new ECF and NPQ initiatives have the potential to attract and maintain a stable teaching profession.


John Croghan M.Ed. BA. Cert.Ed.

If you would like to speak to John please email john.croghan@evaluate-ed.com.

Content Development and Monitoring

John Croghan M.Ed. BA. CertEd. has over 50 years of experience in education, as a teacher, leading learning in classrooms from EYFS to Y11, as well as a leader and primary headteacher.  He enjoyed his role supporting Every Child Matters in schools and has advised and supported schools across the West Midlands, as well as leading OFSTED inspections.   He is currently a school consultant, mentor, and governor. 

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