Right now, two in ten teaching posts remain vacant and thousands of schools are being forced to close, denying tens of thousands of pupils a decent education.
Thankfully this isn’t happening in the UK, but the current situation in the Greek system is a stark reminder of the need to address staffing issues in our schools. Make no mistake, there is a very real recruitment and retention crisis in education here at the moment and we need to find solutions fast.
I imagine that the recruitment sector will have seen this crisis coming for some time. At an REC sector event earlier this year I heard many members talk about the increasing difficulty in finding candidates to fill teaching vacancies, but other authorities at the time were continuing to say various versions of the phrase ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ Now, however, three key reports have revealed the scale of the situation we are in.
Firstly, Education Support Partnership undertook research to find out when and why education staff were planning to leave their roles in the sector. Worryingly, a third said they were planning to leave in the next five years: some to retire, but many to take roles elsewhere because of dissatisfaction due to issues such as workload, pay and change management.
Secondly, the Government released their projections for pupil numbers, which revealed that 615,000 more pupils are going to join the school system by 2020. The implications of this are huge. If the pupil:teacher ratio of 17:1 is to be maintained and a third of teachers do indeed leave, more than 190,000 new teachers may need to be recruited in the next five years.
Finally, the Government released their teacher supply model projections. These figures confirmed that around 8% of teachers are projected to leave prematurely each year until at least 2019 and teacher ‘wastage’, as the Department for Education call it, will be most likely amongst younger recruits in EBacc subjects. In other words, recruitment alone cannot solve this crisis, because the retention issue will remain, causing new recruits to leave. We can’t fix a leaking pipe by pouring more water down it. The National College for Teaching and Leadership is setting up a pilot to encourage qualified teachers to return to teaching in hard-to-recruit areas, but again, that alone won’t suffice. We can’t fix the pipe by scooping up the leaking water and pouring it down again either.
So what are the solutions? At Education Support Partnership we’re putting that question direct to the profession and direct to you. The truth is that solutions already exist in exemplary institutions in the sector: institutions that are bucking the trend by successfully recruiting staff and ensuring that they are #NotQuittingTeaching. We’re asking everyone working in or with the education sector to use this hashtag to share their best recruitment and retention practice with us, and we’d love to hear from you. We’ll gather everyone’s examples and produce a best practice guide for everyone involved in education to use.
We feel that our charity’s support services for individuals and organisations can help to solve this crisis by enabling staff to feel at their best and make education a more appealing sector to work in. That said, we’re humble enough to say that we can’t solve this crisis on our own. The scale of the crisis may be huge, but if all institutions and agencies share knowledge about what works, communicate and collaborate, we can find and deliver the solutions we need to keep our schools staffed. Together, we can ensure that many more staff are #NotQuittingTeaching.