The Government Recruitment and Retention Strategy for Teachers: Seven Key Observations

Introduction

The DfE’s long-awaited ‘Recruitment and Retention Strategy’ was released today and, as you might expect, there is plenty to discuss and dissect.

Broadly, we echo the enthusiasm of other pundits and industry leaders. The Recruitment and Retention Strategy (RRS) is bold, well-informed and could rewrite the fundamentals of how the teaching workforce is organised. Nonetheless, although much went well, there are some things we would have like to have seen included.

So, at the risk of triggering former teachers, we’ve chosen to present our thoughts on the RRS using the classic marking format of yore: What Went Well & Even Better If.

What Went Well

  • Acknowledgement – the DfE has been peculiarly reticent about the magnitude of recruitment and retention challenges faced by schools. The RRS is generously studded with terms that indicate the government has grasped the depth of the issue and is seeking suitably sized solutions to meet it.
  • Workload – Apropos admission that there is a workload issue in teaching has been routine for a number of years, but it is refreshing to see the DfE accurately diagnose the sources of these issues: distorted understandings of Ofsted requirements, burdensome data entry practices, regular system reform and perhaps most strikingly of all: challenging behaviour from students.
  • The ECF – Attrition rates from the profession are alarmingly high for early career teachers, suggesting  that something is being missed for sophomores. The Early Career Framework offers a structured solution of CPD that, if evidence-based, could not only retain more teachers in the workforce but also fortify the professionalism of teaching.
  • Flexible Working – Many organisations are working to make teaching more accommodating to part-time and flexible working and the RRS concedes that this will be an important part of keeping the best teachers in the workforce. This is clearly motivated by survey and interview data as well as by trends in other professions.
  • Collaboration – No institution is an island, and it is fantastic to see the DfE grasping that it will need to recruit the expertise of the EEF to trial and evaluate CPD programmes, Teach First to build localised accreditation programmes and EDTech pioneers to engineer tools and systems for managing flexible and part-time teachers.

Even Better If…

  • Returning to Teaching – While the RSS is pointed about the need to keep teachers from leaving the workforce, it oddly neglects teachers who have already left the profession. There are huge numbers of qualified, experienced teachers who can be motivated to return to the profession if the appropriate incentives are in place and the transition is adequately lubricated. This is an efficient and cost-effective option the DfE needs to take seriously.
  • ITT Information – While a single central ITT portal will be a dramatic improvement, the issue is more than just the diffusion of information across many websites. Honest and accurate information about what differentiates routes from each other, which will better suit certain candidates and data on the retention and progression rates of each path need to be spelled out for candidates to make informed decisions. Generating and targeting this information will likely be assisted by access to big data.

Crisis Averted?

Some quick maths confirms that we’ve chosen to focus on the positive parts of the RRS. That’s relatively easy. Overall, it’s a strong statement full of solid ideas and plenty of food for thought. Over the coming weeks we’re going to continue unpacking those ideas and nourishing our own minds with its insights. We’ll be writing some of that up on our blog and look forward to sharing it with you. Don’t forget to send us your thoughts, or to like and share on social media if you think what we’re saying is valuable.