UK: recruitment and retention top the list of demands to be put at the heart of governmental policy

published 25 September 2017 updated 25 September 2017

Following on the latest report by the National Audit Office, UK education unions have urged the government to step up its efforts to ensure the recruitment and retention in the profession of properly trained teachers.

NEU: long-standing governmental failure to tackle teaching workforce’s recruitment, retention and professional development

“This National Audit Office (NAO) report provides a challenging judgement on the work of this government in meeting its responsibilities around evidence-informed and impactful spending of scarce public resources in education, particularly around the improvement and retention of the existing teaching workforce,” the National Education Union (NEU) Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union Kevin Courtney said, commenting on the NAO report entitled ‘Retaining and Developing the Teaching Workforce’ and released on 12 September.

Adding that the report’s findings are “an indictment of a record of failings that stretches back over several years,” he deplored that the Department for Education has failed to engage with schools on issues of recruitment, retention and professional development. The public authorities’ response to this ongoing crisis has been on a scale far too modest to achieve effective change and has failed to collect the basic information which would allow it to address acute local-level problems, Courtney noted.

Warning that children's education will suffer if Government cannot fulfil its basic responsibility to train and retain enough qualified teachers, he also reminded that education unionists “have long decried the Government’s limited focus on teacher recruitment, which ignores the early exodus made by many excellent and experienced teachers due to an inflexible and excessive-working-hours culture”.

These issues cannot be left to schools, and they are a responsibility of central government, Courtney highlighted.

NASUWT: need to drive down excessive teacher workload and reform the high-stakes accountability system

“The National Audit Office is just the latest body to warn of the deep teacher recruitment and retention crisis which this Government has created and to highlight the lack of effective action by ministers to address it,” the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) General Secretary Chris Keates underlined.

She went on to explain that in order to recruit sufficient numbers of high-quality teachers and retain existing professionals in the classroom, the Department for Education should be focusing its efforts on “driving down excessive teacher workload and reforming the high-stakes accountability system which drives much of the necessary bureaucracy which teachers are facing”.

Keates also insisted that the UK Government must heed the growing pressure its public sector pay cap is having on recruitment and retention and act urgently to remove the unacceptable pay cap and restore salaries to levels which are competitive with other graduate professions and which reflect the high level of knowledge and skill which teaching demands.