DfE’s Teacher Recruitment & Retention Strategy Roadshow

The DfE are running a series of roadshow events across the country to consult on and introduce their new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy to school, local authority and MAT leaders. I was at their first event held in London on Monday (4th March) at South Bank University with presentations from Jonathan Duff (Deputy Director, Regional Schools Commissioners Office), Emma Hubbel (from the DfE’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy Unit) and Sir Andrew Carter (CE of South Farnham Educational Trust).

The DfE strategy has outlined four priority areas:

1. Creating “supportive school cultures” with a focus on reducing teacher workload.

I heard discussions from school and MAT colleagues at the event about ways they already try to support staff – email rules (no messaging allowed outside of work hours 8am to 5.30pm), half termly supervision meetings for teachers with line managers with a focus on “how are you?” rather than “how are you performing?”, flexible use of PPA time (which could be taken at home). The message from all the school and MATs I spoke to at the event was that it was headteachers and school/ MAT leaders which set the tone and create the school culture – therefore they have a duty to model a way of working which respects wellbeing and demonstrate a work/life balance for all their staff.

2. Launch of a new Early Career Framework – extending fully funded support for NQTs from one year to two years.

Discussion I heard at the event focused on whether two years of support might put some people off teacher training and whether schools have the capacity to cover the mentoring and support needed for each NQT. This can be particularly difficult for small schools. However, it was hard to argue with the fact that 1 in 5 leave the teaching profession within two years of qualifying – clearly this tells us something about the support NQTs are currently lacking. Ambition School Leadership announced yesterday (6th March) that they are piloting this new early careers framework, with Education Endowment Foundation and Institute for Teaching working with 20 primaries and 20 secondaries over the next year.

3. Develop new NPQs for teachers who want to develop their careers but not become leaders – there was much not detail shared at the event about what these qualifications would be. Support schools and academies to offer from flexible working conditions and part-time roles for teachers.

The strategy states that only 28% of female teachers work part-time, compared to an average of 40% of women in the UK and fewer men do too (8% compared to 12% in the whole economy). Clearly education has some catching-up to do – but school leaders at the event spoke about how hard it was to timetable part-time teachers (with no room in school budgets for any ‘extra’ teachers) and asked how do you change the way we measure performance of part-time teachers? Others spoke about about the trap of trying to get part-time staff to deliver a full-time role. All agreed that a major re-think was needed – where schools stop advertising part-time jobs with essentially a full-time job description. New roles need to be created in schools, new ways of working trialed and built around part-time teachers.

4. Simplify the systems for initial teacher training applications. This seemed to have left ITT providers at the event rather concerned about what cuts and efficiencies might be coming their way in the DfE’s new drive for a more streamlined ITT offer across the country.

Three of these four priorities focus on retaining staff rather than recruiting staff – and the strategy is clear that there are no quick, easy fixes to the looming teacher recruitment crisis. Pupil numbers (particularly at secondary level) are increasing at a far greater rate than current teacher recruitment figures. So the focus for education leaders and employers has to be on making teaching “attractive, sustainable and rewarding”.

Sir Andrew Carter speaking at the DfE event

Andrew Carter spoke about how schools need to protect their investment in staff. He spoke of how we look after our premises – employ premises managers and invest in premises upkeep and repairs to prevent greater costs in years ahead. Why, he asked, do schools not invest in the same way in their staff? He suggested that school leaders should be setting aside 2% of their annual income to nurture and retain staff – be that through CPD, salary levels, retention bonuses or subsidised housing. I agree absolutely with Andrew Carter’s views – too often staff once appointed and the vacancy filled are left without much support and ongoing care from their employers – but he spoke from the perspective of a larger MAT. Smaller maintained schools and smaller MATs will struggle to find a ‘spare 2%’ in their budgets to make this happen. Many school and MAT leaders would love to offer a range of benefits and support to their teachers but simply don’t have the cash to be able to do it. There were no questions or discussions about funding or school budgets at this DfE event… maybe there will be at others?

You can get a ticket to one of the free DfE roadshow events: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/teacher-recruitment-and-retention-strategy-roadshows-tickets-55958906596

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