Teacher recruitment is ‘A pipeline leaking at both ends’, says NAHT

NAHT reveals the findings from its annual recruitment survey

As primary school leaders gather in Birmingham today for NAHT’s Primary Conference, NAHT is revealing the findings from its annual recruitment survey. This year’s survey of over 800 school leaders shows that for the fourth year, recruitment in schools is a significant problem.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Despite four years of warnings by NAHT the recruitment crisis continues unabated. 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.”

The survey shows that:

  • For the fourth consecutive year, school leaders report that there is a problem with recruitment across all roles, from teachers to senior leaders. A very high proportion (81%) of teaching vacancies were difficult to fill; 63% were recruited with a struggle, and respondents failed to recruit 18% of roles.
  •  In the last year, two thirds (66%) of school leaders said they were aware of some of their staff having left the teaching profession, for reasons other than retirement. The top two reasons cited were workload (84% of respondents mentioned this) and achieving a better work-life balance (83% of respondents mentioned this).
  • Budget pressures are having an ever-increasing impact year on year, with the number of respondents blaming them for their failure to recruit to teaching roles rising from nine per cent in 2014, to 33% this year.
  • There’s also an issue at senior leadership level; this year respondents reported a rise in the failure to recruit to deputy/vice principal roles and assistant head/principal roles since 2016 (up one percentage point and nine percentage points respectively).
  • There are still huge difficulties in recruitment for the middle leadership roles in schools. For posts carrying a teaching or learning (TLR) or Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) responsibility, only 17 per cent of roles were filled with ease; members reported difficulty in recruiting to 61 per cent of these posts, and in 23% of cases the school failed to recruit altogether.
  • All too often recruitment efforts fail to produce enough high quality candidates. The main reasons given to explain why schools struggled to recruit included the quality of applicants in the area (cited by 64 per cent of individuals) and an overall shortage of staff in the area (cited by 50% of respondents).
  • Continuing the trend seen in 2016, for those who failed to recruit supply agencies were the most common solution, reported by 73 per cent of individuals. While, 44% of those questioned reported that their solution was for the teaching hours to be covered by a member of the Senior Leadership Team – up from 41% in 2016.

Nick Brook continued: “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. Today’s graduates are attracted to other professions, and current teachers are leaving in search of other careers.

“Budget cuts mean that pay rises and professional training are not keeping pace with teachers’ expectations. They don’t ask for much but they are getting even less.  The government must make the changes necessary to ensure a workforce that can deliver the best education for all. This should be the focus of all our attention, to attract and retain teachers, pay them properly, treat them well and respect their need for a proper work-life balance.”

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said: “The difficulty school leaders are having recruiting middle and senior leadership roles is extremely worrying and has significant consequences for the future of our education system if not addressed. Roles such as the SENCo are critical in supporting our most vulnerable pupils, and it is a real concern that schools are finding it hard to recruit people into these positions. Now more than ever we need to invest in and retain the school leaders of the future.

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“We shouldn’t forget that the middle leaders of today are the senior leaders of tomorrow – we have a duty to encourage and support them. However too many being put off from stepping up or are leaving as the excessive workload, long hours,  and high pressure gets too much.”

Bev Sheppard, Chair of NAHT’s Deputy and Assistant Heads Council said: “Forty-four per cent of respondents said that members of the senior leadership team are being asked to cover classes when recruitment fails.  All school staff and particularly school leaders are working at full capacity already, without having to step in for someone else.

“This adds hugely to the pressure and workload faced by Deputy and Assistant Heads and distracts from the crucial responsibilities for leadership and school improvement. Dedicated senior leaders make sacrifices, often affecting their own work-life balance, but this is not sustainable in the long term. Sadly too many teachers are getting burnt out and we are missing out on leaders with valuable wisdom and experience as a result.”

Case studies

“I have been leading schools now for 15 years and recruitment has never been so challenging. Our schools and our children desire the very best teachers and leaders and ideally we would have a wide pool of well and appropriately qualified practitioners to draw from; however, too often this is not the case. There have been critical issues in recent years in Maths and Science and this has worsened. These shortage subjects have been joined by others such as Languages and English. In geographically more isolated schools, such as we have in rural Cambridgeshire, too many posts are filled by a rolling number of supply or temporary staff. Of course, all this is made worse by the dire funding situation where we lack the resources to secure teachers and leaders with incentives.”

Robert Campbell, CEO of Morris Education Trust, Cambridge

“Special school recruitment is suffering in exactly the same way as mainstream colleagues, and the reasons too are the workload and achieving a sensible work-life balance. A serious concern is the impact that recruitment is having on finding staff with the necessary skills and experience to support a pupil population with increasingly complex needs. Training to understand and meet these needs is very ad hoc, relying on professional organisations or schools to offer such opportunities.”

Paul Williams, chair of NAHT SEND Council

“It is getting harder and harder to recruit high quality, experienced staff.  One headship in Blackpool took three advertisements before governors appointed someone to the position. In many ways, recruiting to coastal areas which are relatively isolated has always been difficult and never more than now.  A combination of pay freezes, a shortage of funding for schools allowing staff to do their job, together with a position that often consumes you at the cost of family life and a wider social life means that teachers are voting with their feet.”

Andy Mellor, NAHT National Vice President

“School leaders across all nations regularly and consistently report the ongoing challenges that they face to recruit and retain high quality teachers. Children deserve a renewed effort from the government to address this issue and work with NAHT and others to turn the current situation around.”
Chris Knowles, Chair of NAHT’s Professional Committee’

“School leaders from all over the country are telling us how difficult it is to recruit high quality staff. Not only are there are far fewer applicants for NQT posts in the primary sector but it is also very difficult to find experienced teachers to fill vacancies. This means that jobs are often being re-advertised several times or covered with supply staff.  Pressures on school budgets also mean that many school leaders are having to review their staffing structures in order to make ends meet.”

Bernadette Hunter, Chair of NAHT’s Primary Council

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