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Stop teachers quitting to help hit recruitment target

Labour should reframe its pledge to recruit 6,500 new teachers by factoring in retention too, so that it can deliver on the target within its first term in government, experts have said.

Keir Starmer has earmarked £450 million to recruit “6,500 new expert teachers in key subjects”. The manifesto pledge is listed among its six “first steps for change” in government.

But the new government faces challenging economic headwinds, flagging recruitment and rising numbers of teachers quitting. Labour has not said how it would deliver the pledge or set out a timeframe.

Reframe the target

Jack Worth, school workforce lead at the National Foundation for Educational Research, urged Labour to “reframe” the target to be about recruitment and retention – meaning it could be met by initiatives aimed at stopping so many teachers quitting.

Recent NFER analysis modelled how Labour could use the £450 million on a combination of pay rises and financial incentives to boost teacher supply.

One option was for Labour to spend the full amount on a 3.3 per cent increase in teacher pay next year, to reduce the supply gap by 4,000 by 2028. But just 600 would be “new” teachers, with retention accounting for the rest.

Hilary Spencer

However, a lower pay rise (2.6 per cent), alongside £2,400 retention payments for teachers in their third year and boosting bursaries by £3,000 for most subjects would slash the teacher gap by 7,000, although only 2,000 of these would be new teachers.

Hilary Spencer, CEO at Ambition Institute, said Labour’s plans were “sensible and well-evidenced”, but warned that ministers must now find cost-efficient ways of delivering them.

She said: “Retention is crucial, too: it is better value both financially and in terms of expertise to keep more existing teachers in their roles.

“The capability and capacity of the education workforce will be fundamental to achieving their aims.”

Could be a long-term ambition

Sam Freedman, a former DfE advisor, said it was a “good thing” that Labour had identified teacher recruitment among its top six pledges, because they will have to act on it.

Speaking at the Festival of Education on polling day, he said he hoped that Labour would deliver 6,500 additional recruits every year, rather than just as a one off.

Worth predicted that the target will be “more of a five-year ambition” due to a lag between policy levers being pulled and new teachers joining the workforce.

The NFER predicted that the government would miss its teacher recruitment target again this year – the 11th time in 12 years.

But Freedman said the fact that Labour wanted to “spend quite significant chunks of cash on that does make you think they at least realise how big the problem is”.

Students to help in schools for debt write-off

Labour’s commanding majority gives it the mandate to do “bold things” in order to hit its recruitment target, Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive at the Chartered College of Teaching, said.

She suggested Labour could offer financial incentives to undergraduate and PhD students, such as money off their student debt, to entice them to work in schools.

Those studying subjects such as physics or chemistry could spend a few hours a week helping out at a local school, by planning and teaching lessons as part of an “innovative” solution to the sector’s workforce woes, she said.

“Potentially, it’s a really excellent recruitment source of future teachers,” she added.

Melanie Renowden, chief executive of the National Institute of Teaching, welcomed Labour’s plans to “create a resilient teaching workforce”.

She said the new government could also focus on “making routes into teaching more accessible; developing a place-based approach which targets recruitment where the need is greatest; and making professional development for leaders and classroom teachers the cornerstone of a retention strategy”.

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