The teacher labour market in England: shortages, subject expertise and incentives

This Report from Education Policy Institute made news today: BBC, The Guardian, The Independent. PDF File.

Some of key findings (edited with focus on mathematics):

Teacher shortages and other pressures

  • Pupil numbers have risen by around 10 % since 2010 – while teacher numbers have remained steady. This means that pupil-to-teacher ratios have risen from around 15.5 in 2010 to nearly 17 by 2018.
  • Teacher training applications are down by 5%, while training targets have been persistently missed in maths and science.
  • Exit rates have also increased, and are particularly high early on in teachers’ careers. Only 60% of teachers remained in state-funded schools five years after starting.  For ‘high-priority’ subjects like physics and maths, this 5-year retention drops to just 50%.
  • Teacher pay has declined by about 10 % in real-terms since 2010 – but the recent announcement of pay rises of up to 3.5 % from September 2018 will halt this real-terms decline.
  • With many able to earn more outside of teaching, England faces a great challenge recruiting new graduates. In maths, average graduate salaries are £4,000 above those of teachers.

Highly-qualified teachers: variations by subject

Levels of teacher quality in secondary schools vary considerably depending on the subject:

  • Maths and most science subjects in particular struggle to attract highly-qualified teachers – with as little as half of teachers holding a relevant degree. Under 50% hold a relevant degree in maths and physics. These subjects, with the lowest proportion of highly-qualified teachers, are also those with the greatest recruitment and retention problems. […]

Highly-qualified teachers: London and the rest of England

There are stark differences in how highly-qualified teachers are represented in the most, and least deprived schools in England (at KS4). The socio-economic gap is much greater outside of London:

  • In areas outside of London, just over a third (37%) of maths teachers […] in the poorest schools had a relevant degree. In more affluent schools outside of London, the proportions are far higher for maths (51%) and chemistry (68%). […]

In London, differences in how highly-qualified teachers are represented are far smaller:

  • In maths, the proportion of teachers with a degree ranges between 40-50% for all schools, regardless of deprivation level […]

Tackling teacher shortages: introduce financial incentives

  • There is strong evidence that providing salary supplements to teachers in some subjects would alleviate shortages – such as in maths and science.
  • Schools in England are able to make such payments already – however, they would have to be drawn from existing budgets, which would present financial challenges.
  • The government should therefore consider a national salary supplement scheme, centrally funded and directed by the Department for Education.
  • Bonus payments of £5,000 for maths teachers are currently being trialled – yet this programme is limited in scope, and the pilot process may be lengthy. It also fails to target many local authorities that are the most in need of highly-qualified teachers.
  • Given the scale and severity of shortages in the teacher labour market, and the known links between teacher quality and pupil outcomes, the government should introduce salary supplements in hard-to-staff areas and subjects without delay.