Teacher supply and shortages: the implications of teacher supply challenges for schools and pupils

Jack Worth and Henry Faulkner-Ellis

22 November 2022

NFER, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, surveyed nationally-representative samples of senior leaders in primary and secondary schools with responsibility for staffing in autumn 2020 and autumn 2021 to gather information about their experience of teacher recruitment, retention, and what actions, if any, they had taken to manage shortages.

Our analysis of the survey data provides insights into the recruitment challenges schools face and draws out some of their potential implications for pupils’ education and learning.

Key Findings

  • Many schools report facing recruitment challenges, particularly secondary schools, where recruitment of trainees to teacher training programmes has been below the target numbers required for many years.
  • The subjects that did not meet their ITT recruitment targets were reported by school leaders as being more difficult to recruit for. The worsening post-pandemic teacher recruitment and retention situation suggests that secondary schools are likely to struggle with filling vacancies in the coming years unless urgent action is taken.
  • Among three key shortage subjects we explored, many schools reported non-specialists teaching maths, physics and modern foreign languages (MFL). Deploying non-specialist teachers was far more prevalent in schools that reported finding teacher recruitment the most difficult, and may have negative implications for the quality of the pupils’ learning.
  • Schools that reported finding teacher recruitment the most difficult were also considerably more likely than other schools to have school leaders doing more teaching than usual. This may reduce the school’s leadership capacity and, in turn, limit the schools’ ability to function well operationally and make improvements to teaching.