Education Policy Institute Publishes Analysis Of UK Teacher Pressures

Education Policy Institute Publishes Analysis Of UK Teacher Pressures

By Gavin Mackintosh-

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published an analysis of teacher labour market pressures in what makes worrying reading.  The analysis highlights increasing exit rates, decreasing numbers of applicants, and the impact on schools and students, as well as offering solutions to mitigate the problems

Some of the challenges faced by the teacher labour market  includes growing pressures due to increasing pupil numbers, and government ‘ambition for 90% of GCSE pupils to be entered into the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) by 2025.

The analysis also reveals worrying trends in terms of the teacher labour market exit rates. It says that between 2010 and 2016, there was an increase from around eight per cent to nine per cent in primaries, and from 9.5% to 10.5% in secondaries. This was  combined with an increasing number of teachers choosing to cut their careers short and a drop in applicants to teacher training.

The EPI analysis  claims that 80% of exits in 2016 were  due to movements to other jobs, or outside the state-funded sector in England, compared with around two thirds in 2010. It says that 60% of teachers working in a state funded school left the profession  five years after starting training

  • 60% of teachers working in a state-funded school in England five years after starting training

The data shows that  there has been a 30% decrease in applications to teacher training according to recent figures. Two-thirds of those applications tend to become entrants into teacher training , but the remaining are not granted offers, or withdraw their applications.

The analysis highlights a worry that while there is still a chance that DfE recruitment figures to be met, they might need to accept nearly all applicants. These figures a worrying signal a problem with both the quantity of trainees, and potentially their quality too,’ it states.

The analysis shows that the problem is worse in secondary schools.


The analysis investigated the overall impact  these trends are having on schools and students.

‘At a macro level, the ratio of pupils to teachers has barely increased at all. It remained around 21 pupils per teacher in primary schools between 2011 and 2016, and only increased from 15.6 to 16.4 in secondary schools,’ the EPI analysis notes.

The numbers of hours taught by subject ‘(mostly) responded in a predictable manner to the introduction of the EBacc and other changes to school accountability’, the data states. It also noted findings by NfERwhich show that total secondary school curriculum hours have increased in English, maths, history and geography, and fallen in the arts, technology, PE, languages and other subjects. While science hours remain the same.

In the analyisis, the EPI also considers how schools have ‘managed to square the circle’ given the increases in exits and persistent recruitment problems in particular subjects. Two main recommendations are made, including increasing teacher hours, and in some subjects, schools have been relying on staff with lower qualifications.

Solutions for the future

The EPI analysis remarks on the solutions that are currently in action and questions how well evidenced there success is.

It suggests that, rather than focusing on recruitment with bursaries, attention should be paid to improving retention and references the recently published report commissioned by the Gatsby Foundation which argued that, ‘targeted salary supplements (of about five per cent) for early-career physics teachers would have eliminated the shortage of physics teachers seen over recent years, had such a policy been introduced in 2010’.

The analysis also dissects the proposed student loan reimbursement programme currently being piloted and questions its effectiveness; ‘It is a complicated scheme with teachers making the student loan contributions first before then filling out a range of paperwork and submitting payslips to claim them back. It would have been preferable, and presumably more effective, if eligible teachers just didn’t have to make the payments in the first place.’

Workload is also highlighted as a root cause and, while the report notes government initiatives to tackle teacher workload, it maks the lack of success in alleviating this to date.

Read the full Education Policy Institute analysis here.

Union reactions

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Anyone working in a school knows how rewarding it is to help young people learn and grow. On a good day, there’s no better profession to be in. The trouble is, our teachers work longer hours, for less money compared to their peers around the world.“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to teacher recruitment and retention. The government is still failing to provide enough teachers for our growing school population. The recruitment pipeline is leaking at both ends, with insufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers coming into the system and too many experienced teachers leaving prematurely.

This is adversely affecting the quality of education, particularly in specialist subjects like physics.

“However, there isn’t a case for pay increases for teachers of particular subjects. Recruitment targets were missed in 2017 for all disciplines, with the exception of history and PE.  The slide in applications for history in the current recruitment round gives no room for complacency. Given the funding crisis, schools do not have the resources to offer more attractive terms to certain teachers anyway.

“A differential approach to pay will do nothing to improve retention and will sap the morale of existing teachers who have endured seven years of cuts to real pay while delivering a new national curriculum and new assessment methodologies across all phases.  This would be viewed as a kick in the teeth by many existing teachers.

“Lifting the pay cap for all roles in schools would be a start but it absolutely must be fully funded by the government because school budgets are already at breaking point. Of course, recruitment and retention is not all about pay.”

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