DfE urged to act faster on recruitment and retention crisis

NAHT president urges ministers to 'slay the three-headed dragon' of workload, underfunding and accountability pressure

John Roberts

NAHT president Andy Mellor

A leading headteacher has urged the government to act faster to reduce workload, increase school funding and improve the accountability system to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis.

According to the president of the NAHT headteachers' union, Andy Mellor, the pressures were like a “three-headed dragon” that was turning the dream job of teaching into a "nightmare" for many school leaders.

The comments come as new figures from the union show that 77 per cent of school leaders found recruitment a struggle last year, and 67 per cent said members of their staff had left for reasons other than retirement.

Speaking today at the NAHT’s primary conference, Mr Mellor will say: “On a good day, teaching is the best job in the world. The trouble is, there are not enough good days. As a result, too few graduates are choosing teaching as a career and too many experienced professionals are leaving the profession prematurely.

“Nine out of 10 primary and secondary schools are facing real-terms funding cuts. An overhaul of the way Ofsted plans to inspect schools is being rushed through. And workload has never been higher, thanks to year after year of government changes. This is the three-headed dragon that is turning a dream job into a nightmare for many school leaders and their teams.”

For the first time, the NAHT has asked its members for solutions to the recruitment and retention crisis in schools. The most common answer was for the government to deliver "a real-terms increase in school funding", which was cited by 82 per cent of respondents; three-quarters wanted a "better work-life balance"; and 63 per cent called for a less punitive accountability system.

A major commission on school accountability, led by the NAHT earlier this year, found that the current system of school league tables and Ofsted inspections was doing more harm than good.  

The union also called on Ofsted to put its plans for a new curriculum-focused inspection framework on hold over fears that it was being rushed through and risked increasing workload.

Mr Mellor will repeat those concerns today, adding: “The new Ofsted inspection framework, due in September 2019, is in real danger of causing chaos throughout the system.

"As we have recommended in our Improving School Accountability report, changes are necessary, but Ofsted must pause rather than rush the framework through without properly involving schools in its design.”

The NAHT will produce a full report on its survey of heads early next year.

In his speech, Mr Mellor will also say: “All of these issues are too big for schools to fix on their own. We know from our conversations with the government that they are well aware of all these problems, and some progress is being made, especially on workload, but now we have to move forward faster and with more purpose on accountability and funding.

“The 'Get into teaching' TV advert is a lovely thing, and stirred many emotions in me when I saw it, but on its own, it won’t fix the leaky pipeline of recruitment and retention.

“The school-funding crisis is something that school leaders cannot solve alone. We have done what we can by making savings, but now there’s nothing left to cut. Only new money from the Treasury is going to make a difference.”

The NAHT Primary conference is taking place in Birmingham today.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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