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NHS-style workforce plan needed for schools, says NIoT

The chief executive of the government’s flagship National Institute of Teaching has called for an NHS-style long-term workforce plan to boost recruitment and retention.

Melanie Renowden’s remarks were made during a webinar today marking the publication of the National Foundation for Educational Research’s latest labour market report.

The research warned teacher supply was in a “critical state” and government is likely to miss its recruitment targets again this year.

The NFER urged political parties to set out plans to “develop a long-term strategy for pay-setting which reduces the gap in earnings growth with competing occupations”, ensuring schools have funds to pay for increases “without making cuts elsewhere”.

But Renowden proposed extending this recommendation “from that focus on pay and encompass a full long-term workforce plan”. 

“I think, if we say it’s needed and we think it can be achieved in the NHS, then given what [NFER] set out for us in terms of the level of challenge here, why are we not also calling for that long-term workforce plan in teaching?”

NHS plan a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’

In June 2023, the NHS published its 15-year plan for retaining staff and using new technology, alongside “the biggest recruitment drive in health service history”. It hailed it as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing”.

It was backed by in £2.4 billion in extra government funding over five years to support a 27 per cent expansion in training places by 2028-29, NHS England guidance states.

The plan aims to boost the number of staff employed by NHS England from about 1.5 million in 2021–22 to up to 2.4 million in 2036–37, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies .

The NHS also wants to ensure up to 130,000 fewer staff leave over the next 15 years by “improving culture, leadership and wellbeing”.

To help achieve this, the NHS said it would ensure staff “can work flexibly, have access to health and wellbeing support, and work in a team that is well led”.

It will also implement “plans to improve flexible opportunities for prospective retirees” and offer ongoing CPD funding for “nurses, midwives and allied health professionals”.

Workforce plan would help with CPD and ITT bursaries

Renowden said an NHS-style plan “would really help us to be thinking about a longer term view on things like ITE bursaries”, professional development funding and “timely pay settlements”.

“It would all help the sector and school employers to plan and deliver with greater confidence, and I think help us grow the overall workforce picture as well.”

She said the proposed blueprint would also “mean we could do a better job of tracking the actual impact of some of the interventions” highlighted in NFER’s report.

“So things like international recruitment. Ultimately, of course, it only really matters for us if those new recruits coming from overseas and into ITE in slightly greater numbers ultimately go on to get to thrive in and ideally to stay in teaching jobs in English state schools.

“So thinking about this longer time horizon would I think help us to do a better job of that.”

Set up by four academy trusts, NIoT is a teacher training and development provider funded by the Department for Education.

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