Recruitment & retention

We don’t have a recruitment problem (ok we may have a recruitment problem!) but I know lots of new teachers who came into the profession having spoken to a teacher who was able to enthuse them enough for them to make the decision and go into teaching! I have spoken to lots of career changers myself over the last 10 years … I’ve even been a case study for the NCTL (or something! .. If I could be really bothered I’d look up an old email to check who it was with!) telling the tale of how I changed career in my 30’s. But I’m not talking just about career changers I’m talking about getting into teaching in general. I just don’t see “getting bums on seats” as our major issue. Ok, I admit that getting the “right” bums on seats may be an issue but nothing that is insurmountable. … ummm actually it seems that the government have an issue getting new teachers through the doors despite throwing millions at the problem. Need I mention the “army” initiative or when the government announced this (which no-one I’ve spoken to even knew existed) and they only managed to recruit 13 trainees ( schoolsweek article ) … what an absolute fecking shambles!

If the conditions were right, almost every teacher in the country should be willing and able to recommend the job to others. On my travels one of the questions I’ve asked at most of the network meetings is “would you recommend teaching to someone else? and has that view changed in recent years?” .. the responses have been interesting! The reason for asking this question, is that about 6 months ago I was approached by my neighbour to talk to a friend of his who was considering a career change into teaching – like I say, I get asked this a lot!! For the first time ever I had to stop and ask myself if I could honestly, hand on heart, recommend the job to someone else. It has changed so much in the last 5 years – the increased pressure for results, the changes to the exams at GCSE and now A level maths this coming year all feel like they’ve been introduced at such a frenetic pace that I genuinely worry about newbies to the profession who think that this is the “norm” so that when the next new thing comes along they just accept this cycle of constant change and get on with it, never questioning and working themselves into the ground and if it turns sour they ultimately leave what is the most rewarding job I have ever done!

Which is why todays report from the NFER about teacher retention should make for interesting reading (due to be published at 9am!). If we retained more people in the profession, recruitment wouldn’t be such an issue. In the businesses I was involved with, we used to talk about  retention rates of staff and one of our key performance indicators was retention of staff – celebrating lengths of service (whether it be 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 or even 25 years and beyond) was something that was done on a regular basis. I know there are many, many teachers that celebrate similar lengths of service but having over 10% of your workforce leave the profession is almost criminal (and don’t be telling me it’s always been that high .. if it has been, it shouldn’t be!) and I also know that there is a healthy level of “churn” to be had too but I’d have to say that losing over 10%  because they’re leaving the profession every year is just wrong.

PS: the last I heard the guy I spoke to had done his work experience and the application for his training place had gone in and he was waiting to hear if he’d got it! So maybe I did an OK job after all!

2017-07-02T19:57:02+00:00 May 16th, 2017|Blog|


  1. Mark Horley May 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    I agree that retention should be the number one priority and that we have seen some pretty awful and wasteful recruitment campaigns over the last few years. But I am slightly optimistic about this, with the work that Ofsted are doing to dispel myths that have led to ludicrous policies in schools creating excessive workload (e.g. Marking, Data entry, etc.). Also, things like Tom Bennett’s report on behaviour and the formation of the Chartered College of Teaching. Funding cuts are a real worry but not everything needs money to make a difference.
    On the “wastage” rate of 10%, it should come down, but I question how far. If 10% leave every year, that means an average tenure of 10 years. Of course, the actual picture is a big exodus after 2-5 years. If you survive that, you probably love the job and stay in it for a long time, much longer than a lot of careers. The biggest thing we must do to reduce the 10% is provide better support and development for those in the first 5 years, recognising that it takes at least that long to become a really effective teacher. At the moment, I see far too much pressure on trainees to get “everything right” in their first year, with graded lesson observations as well writing pointless essays. Then the step up in the NQT year in terms of contact time is huge – it becomes an issue of survival, not development. It wouldn’t cost much to reduce contact time in NQT1 and NQT2 years and only have a full timetable in NQT3. The freed up time could be used to co-plan with other teachers and observe experienced teachers’ lessons.
    Anyway, rant over – that’s what I’ll do when I’m in charge!

  2. admin May 16, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I’d vote for you x

  3. Amir May 17, 2017 at 9:05 am

    IMO, the biggest problem is the financial incentive mechanism. Funding is great – but you have to hook people into the notion of actually embracing the career too. If someone offered me, say £60,000 to be a bin man, it would be hard to turn down. But the idea is very different from the reality. Like me, there are a cohort of teachers who were given the opportunity to have their student loans paid during the time they were in teaching, as long as they were in a shortage subject. If the person quit, then they’d have to pay the remainder of their loans. It was a great incentive to stay in the profession and see the tough first couple of years through.

    These days, there is no similar caveat to receiving the funding other than signing up and doing your ITT year. Some people even take a pay cut from their ITT to their NQT years.

    For me, it should be structured like this:

    Student loans paid off for up to 10 years of being in teaching. After the 10th year the remainder of the loan is written off, as long as the person remains in full-time teaching.

    ITT year – bursary for accommodation, tuition fees and travel.
    NQT year 1 – £2k golden ‘handcuffs’ for every term completed. 80% timetable.
    NQT year 2 – £1k golden ‘handcuffs’ for every term completed. 90% timetable
    NQT year 3 – £2k final golden ‘handcuff’ – £5k one off payment at the end of the year. 100% timetable.

    By the end of the 3rd year, most staff will have overcome the ‘hump’ and know what their future holds re the profession. It’ll slow the churn rate down.

    But, more importantly, it shouldn’t just be about money. Working conditions are something we are all aware of, and overtures are being shared and started to be acted on. The question is will they accelerate change fast enough to head off the crisis?

  4. JustMathsMel May 17, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Brilliant response … as always very eloquent Amir x

  5. Amir May 19, 2017 at 5:22 am

    Cheers Mel!

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