The number of openings in schools is “substantially higher” than before the pandemic, suggesting that more teachers are leaving the profession, according to a report.
Limited opportunities for teachers to work from home may have made teaching less attractive amid the rise of remote work in other professions, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said.
The NFER report also predicts that the Government is likely to miss its teacher recruitment targets in primary schools, as well as a range of secondary school subjects, this year in England.
It comes as unions and the government are in talks over wages and working conditions that have sparked a series of teacher strikes this year.
The NFER is calling for a long-term salary strategy to stop a “worsening” teacher recruitment and retention crisis in England that it says has “intensified significantly” since the pandemic.
The report said the gap in real earnings growth among teachers
and similar graduates has “expanded significantly” since the pandemic.
Report co-author Jack Worth, NFER’s school workforce leader, warned that student achievement outcomes could suffer as principals increasingly have to resort to using non-specialist teachers “to fill in the gaps.” “.
The report found that the number of teacher openings posted by schools, an indicator of staff turnover, was 93% higher in the school year through February 2023 than at the same point in the year before the pandemic (2018 /19).
“The number of teacher openings posted by schools this academic year is substantially higher than it was before the pandemic, indicating that dropout rates are likely to have increased this year,” the report stated.
Data on teacher vacancies, collected by the teacher job board and data mining service TeachVac, also suggests that vacancies in February 2023 were 37% higher than at the same point in the 2021/22 school year. .
“This is likely to indicate that teachers who may have put off the decision to leave teaching during the pandemic are leaving now that the job market is picking up,” the report said.
Teacher vacancies do not just reflect teachers leaving the profession, as schools may post vacancies to fill positions vacated by teachers who have moved schools or because there is an increased demand for staff driven by a larger number of students.
But the report said the increase in teacher vacancies since spring 2022 suggests that “churn rates are likely to have increased significantly in the past year.”
The study highlights how the pandemic has led to widespread adoption of remote work in the graduate workforce, but says opportunities for teachers to work from home “remain very limited.”
He said: “The continued high prevalence of home working in many jobs in the wake of the pandemic indicates that it is a particularly attractive arrangement.
“The lack of availability of home work may therefore pose a threat to the relative attractiveness of teaching.”
The report calls on the government to fund research into teachers’ flexible working preferences after the pandemic, saying school leaders should explore what flexible working options might work for staff.
Worth said: “Schools are being forced to stumble from one budget to another and from strike to strike without the help of a clear strategy designed to address a worsening hiring and retention crisis.
“School leaders are increasingly turning to the use of non-specialist teachers to fill in the gaps that will ultimately affect student outcomes.
“The 2023 teacher pay premium should exceed 4.1%, the latest forecast to increase UK average earnings next year, to reduce the gap between teacher pay and the broader labor market, and improve recruitment and retention.
“This should be accompanied by a long-term plan to improve the competitiveness of teacher salaries and, most importantly, ensure that schools have the funds to pay for it.”
Based on February 2023 applications, the NFER report projects that nine of 17 high school subjects, including physics, computing and modern foreign languages, are expected to be 20% or more below the government’s hiring target this year.
It warns that other subjects, such as English, chemistry, math and geography, are also “at risk of outsourcing” teachers this year.
The report comes the same week that the Commons Education Committee launched an investigation into the recruitment and retention of teachers in schools.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Teacher shortages have been an issue for many years, but the situation has sunk to a new low in the wake of the pandemic.
“It appears that some existing teachers have taken stock of their careers and opted for higher-paying, less-pressured jobs that offered hybrid work, while graduates are less attracted to teaching for the same reasons.”
Niamh Sweeney, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “The latest NFER report shows what many of us in the education sector have long feared about the state of teacher recruitment and retention: this crisis is entrenched and cuts deep and hard.
“Year after year, this government has failed to truly acknowledge the scale and severity of the problem.”
She added: “Expecting teachers to teach subjects they are not qualified to teach also increases stress for teachers and leaders. Children and young people bear the brunt of this inability to get to the root of the problem, and schools in the most deprived areas have even more difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers.”