Teacher recruitment and retention crisis shows no signs of abating, new report reveals

Press Release

Wednesday 20 March 2024

NFER’s new Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2024, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, reveals that both recruitment and retention issues are persisting - the latter made worse by increased teacher workload pressures since the pandemic.  

Workload challenges growing as a result of behaviour and pastoral support pressures

Data from both the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Government’s Working Lives of Teachers and Leaders (WLTL) survey shows that teachers’ working hours significantly increased in 2022/23 compared to the previous year.  

Despite workload reduction being a policy priority for Government, NFER’s report finds that rising teacher working hours mean that the Government may face a challenge in meeting its workload reduction target. Teachers continue to work longer hours than similar graduates in other jobs during a typical working week. 

This is particularly worrying as workload is the main reason why teachers leave the profession, and the WLTL survey data also suggests that the number of teachers who are considering leaving increased by 44 per cent in 2022/23 compared to the previous year. 

According to NFER’s research, teachers now say pupil behaviour is driving higher workload and that behaviour management and pastoral care should be key priority areas for workload reduction. More support from outside agencies for specific pupil needs such as special educational needs and disability (SEND) support, mental health and safeguarding are seen by teachers as key to further workload reduction.  

The study recommends that the Government should set up an independent review focusing on how to reduce teachers’ workload related to behaviour management and pastoral care, which should also consider the role of external support services. 

Teacher pay levels and affordability still a persistent issue 

The research also finds that teachers’ pay has grown more slowly than pay in the rest of the labour market since 2010/11, making the profession less competitive.

The report outlines how it is unlikely that last year’s pay award has significantly improved the competitiveness of pay, particularly for experienced teachers* which, in 2023/24 was 12 per cent lower, in real terms, than in 2010/11. This was 15 percentage points lower than average UK earnings growth over the same period, a wider gap than in 2018/19, just before the pandemic.  

Recruitment showing an improvement this year but still likely to fall short of targets

Addressing pay and workload are key to supporting teacher recruitment and retention and should be a focus for political parties in the run up to the next general election and for the next parliament.

The report finds that while teacher recruitment is on track to be better this year than last year due to bursary increases and new initiatives to attract international applicants, it is still likely to be far below target.  

NFER’s ITT recruitment forecast, based on applications made up to February 2024, suggests that 10 out of 17 secondary subjects are likely to under-recruit in 2024/25.

Overall secondary recruitment is forecast to be around 61 per cent of target – an improvement compared to 2023/24. Primary recruitment, however, which is usually at or above its target each year, is forecast to reach only 83 per cent of target next year. 

Jack Worth, School Workforce Lead at the NFER and co-author of the report said: 

“Teacher supply is in a critical state that risks the quality of education that children and young people receive. We urge the current Government to take action to improve teacher recruitment and retention, and the political parties to develop long-term plans for after the election. 

“The 2024 teacher pay award should exceed 3.1 per cent – the latest forecast of the rise in average earnings next year – to narrow the gap between teacher pay and the wider labour market and improve recruitment and retention. This needs to be accompanied by a long-term strategy to improve the competitiveness of teacher pay while crucially ensuring schools have the funds to pay for it.  

“Meanwhile workload, a key driver of retention, is rising just as the Government is aiming to reduce working hours.  

“Overall, these trends affirm that ambitious, radical and cost-effective policy options to address teacher recruitment and retention are urgently needed.” 

The research further recommends that political parties should introduce a Frontline Workers Pay Premium to compensate public sector workers for the lack of remote and hybrid working opportunities in their jobs, compared to the wider labour market. To compensate for this inflexibility the report estimates that teacher pay would have to rise by 1.8 per cent. 

Dr Emily Tanner, Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said:  

“NFER's expert and independent analysis of the teacher labour market is an invaluable resource for policymakers looking for evidence-based solutions in the face of immense challenges.

“Today's report shows that previous initiatives, such as bursaries, have made some difference but that more fundamental changes are needed for teaching to be an attractive and sustainable profession that reflects its importance in our society." 

Notes to editors

*Experienced teachers are those at the top of the upper pay scale.