Written evidence submitted by Teacher Tapp
Introduction & Who We Are
Teacher Tapp is a daily survey of almost 10,000 teachers, predominantly across England in primary and secondary schools. We have been running every day since September 2017 and our results are reweighted against the workforce census to make them nationally representative. Our research has been used by the Office for National Statistics and is regularly featured across the media.
Over the past five years we’ve collected thousands of data points on teachers’ views on recruitment and retention. We release annual reports about the labour market in conjunction with the Gatsby Foundation and School Dash, and also summarised the evidence about recruitment in challenging circumstances in our 2019 Sutton Trust report, The Teacher Recruitment Gap.
What are the main factors leading to difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified teachers?
There are numerous issues playing into the current shortages, some of which are specific to our education system but some of which are part of global trends, including demographics, changes to teacher training and the cost of living. There are many researchers working in these fields who will submit evidence to cover these.
Our research focuses on teachers who are already in the profession and looks in granular detail at their current attitudes and behaviours in work.
Here are some concerning findings:
- When asked if they would leave teaching if they could find another job on the same salary, 61% agreed and 25% strongly. In 2019 it was only 50% and 15% strongly.
- When asked if they could go back to the start of their careers, would they still train in their chosen jobs, back in 2018 the proportion of teachers saying ‘certainly, yes’ was already low at 42% but has now dropped to just 23%.
There appears to have been a distinct disillusionment and change in attitudes since before the pandemic which are likely to affect retention and may also affect recruitment.
Pertinent findings that could add evidence for this change include:
- Our data shows the pandemic increased stress levels among teachers, particularly headteachers, and has remained higher for heads even to date, which may affect their long-term commitment and physical ability to continue in teaching.
- In 2019, 39% of teachers said they could live comfortably on their salaries. By the summer of 2022 it was down to 29%. With the increase in interest rates since last autumn, we expect this will be even more squeezed when we ask again in summer 2023. Teachers with children are the hardest hit with only 20% saying they were able to live comfortably - a reduction of a third. Given the lack of attractive pay opportunities in the face of increased cost of living, teachers with other options to seek higher-paid work elsewhere will likely do so.
- As working from home becomes more common in other professions there are benefits not open to teachers who must continue travelling to their school locations, such as saving on fuel costs (something which we see is high for teachers, most of whom drive to work) and on flexibility. Only 1 in 3 teachers are allowed to be at home for their preparation and planning time.
- High workload and pressures are often said by teachers to be one of the major contributing factors to them thinking of leaving. Our data suggests that teachers work long hours (around 50 per week), often getting to school very early, at around 7.30am, while around half are also marking late into the evenings, and the same amount spend time planning or marking on the weekends. Marking is particularly disliked by teachers, with the average time spent on it per week at 3 hours, though some teachers do as much as 15 hours (especially in weeks when they are expected to mark mock exams).
- Behaviour is a big driver of teacher retention. In the Recruitment Gap we showed that if teachers are given two choices, working longer hours in a school with good behaviour or shorter hours in a school with bad behaviour, they more commonly pick the long hours and the good behaviour. Since the pandemic, teacher perception is that pupil behaviour is now much worse, which may also be leading people to feel more disillusioned and wanting to leave their job.
Which subjects are most affected?
Maths, science, and languages are particularly affected by turnover, as these subjects consistently suffer from high vacancy rates and a lack of qualified applicants in secondary schools. Teachers of these subjects have skills that are highly valued in the workplace and so could seek careers with superior salaries and career prospects.
In our most recent data on the question of whether they had university friends earning more than them, languages teachers were the most likely to agree (40%) and maths teachers were second (35%). By contrast only 20% of key stage 2 primary school teachers agreed. We do not separate out computing teachers however we would expect that they also have competitive alternatives.
However, we might take heart from the fact that our research with The Gatsby Foundation and School Dash in 2021 found that maths teachers exhibit the highest attachment to the profession. (By ‘attachment’ we mean a range of questions showing how committed they are to staying in their role). This may be because those who are already in maths teaching have specifically chosen the job, as they have skills that could very easily be used more lucratively elsewhere, and so are only there because they are committed.
We also know that teachers who are most confident with their subjects feel more attached to their job. Where teachers must take classes in multiple subjects, especially ones that they are unfamiliar with, it may undermine attachment. Science, PE and arts teachers are most likely to be in this position. If shortages mean teachers are forced to cover increasingly diffuse timetables then there is a risk these groups become even more likely to want to leave.
Early years and primary schools have different challenges. While these phases generally have more applicants than vacancies, they also now have higher turnover rates than secondary schools. The higher rate of women in the primary phase also means there is more need for maternity cove and there is a higher rate of part-time working, which is helpful retaining teachers in the profession, but does necessitate more people in the workforce to cover workload.
How does the situation differ across the country and across different types of schools and colleges?
The problem with finding and keeping teachers is different depending on where the school is and what kind of school it is. In London and the South East, it's harder to keep teachers because it's more expensive to live there, and there are more job choices. Teachers in London also tend to be younger and more likely to move out of the city as they get older.
In rural and coastal areas, teachers don't leave as often because there aren't as many other jobs to choose from. But it's still hard for these areas to find new teachers, especially ones with special skills or experience, because there aren't many places for them to get training and fewer options for promotions.
Schools with more students who get free school meals have a harder time finding good teachers and keeping them. These schools also have more teachers who feel stressed and burned out because they have to help students with more difficult problems. In our research with the Sutton Trust we found that teachers believe that schools serving more deprived students are harder to work in. They also tend to prefer teaching classes with pupils who have higher levels of prior achievement. Overcoming these perceptions by signalling the school’s behaviour and support policies may help ameliorate the issue.
How well a school is rated also relates to how happy its teachers are. Our data has found that job attachment is lowest in schools with the weakest Ofsted judgements. We do not know the direction of causation.
What has been the impact of the Early Career Framework implemented in September 2021?
The Early Career Framework (ECF) started in September 2021. Our first report in April 2022, surveying early career teachers on our panel found that many didn't like the materials and training they get from the ECF. Indeed, only 9% of ECTs and 14% of mentors thought the training received to that point had been a good use of time. They said the materials didn’t focus enough on their specific subjects, weren’t helpful for different situations, and weren’t very interesting or easy to use.
Second, the ECF has made the workload heavier for new teachers and their mentors - with a majority saying it had added extra hours to their workload. Nearly half of mentors said they had not been given extra non-teaching time to compensate for their responsibilities.
Third, there isn't enough money and resources to make the ECF work well. New teachers and their mentors said they don't have enough time to use the ECF materials and training. They also said they don't get enough help or feedback from their schools, the people who provide the ECF, or other groups.
On the upside, ECTs really liked their mentors and while only 12% of ECTs would keep the programme exactly as it is, only 11% would opt-out altogether.
What actions should the Department take to address the challenges in teacher retention and recruitment?
It is difficult for The Department to influence many of the aspects that make a difference as they are often delegated to schools - e.g. behaviour, timetabling, flexible working policies.
Nonetheless the Department could help by:
- Getting better information about how many teachers each school needs, how often teachers change jobs, and where they are going.
- Consider pay or flexible working incentives that may help attract and retain teachers in the face of other opportunities, particularly with regard to working from home.