Senior Department for Education figures are concerned that one of their most important education reform packages could be lost forever, Tes can reveal.
The government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy was due to be published last week. Officials had wanted to release the strategy ahead of today's Brexit vote to ensure it did not get submerged by the political uncertainty that may follow.
However, it is understood that the move was scuppered by a Downing Street desire to hold the strategy back so that it could be used as an announcement to kickstart the government's domestic agenda after the current Brexit issues had been settled.
Privately, DfE officials say they now fear it may not happen at all. With so much resting on schools having the teachers they need, the recruitment and retention strategy is a centre-piece of the department's programme.
It is thought to include measures to improve teacher retention by reducing workload and accountability demands. It is also expected to cover the early career framework which aims to put in place a two-year induction process for teacher trainees, look at the financial incentives available for trainees and include rolling out the School Experience Programme which arranges taster days for would-be teachers.
There were already fears that the loss of up to 1,000 of the DfE's civil servants in redeployment to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit, could lead to the delay or scrapping of some education initiatives.
A spokesperson for the NAHT headteachers' union said: “It would be a mistake for it to be lost. Recruitment and retention is a really key issue and we need to see the government recognise that they have to play their part in improving recruitment and retention.
“When the government is serious about taking action you see it publish a strategy. There is a strategy on mental health and an industrial strategy.
"It is encouraging if they are producing a strategy on recruitment because it is such a headache for school leaders – what is important is that the strategy has within it clear measures that will improve the situation. It’s important that whatever strategy comes it is properly funded in order for it to work.”
Teacher training targets have been missed for six years running, with targets being hit in just four secondary subjects in 2018.
And retention is an increasing worry, with numbers leaving the profession now equal to the numbers joining.
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: “They have said publicly that it’s going to be a proper recruitment and retention strategy whereas in the past, there’s just been piecemeal bits and pieces, so it could be an important document.
“We really have to do something to get new people into teaching and keep new people into teaching and a lot of hopes are being pinned on what is on this strategy.”
And Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said: “I think it’s really important there is a strategy and Damian Hinds has committed to producing one.
“I do think it is a teacher shortage crisis, I know the government doesn’t like that word, but we’re expecting a big increase in the number of secondary pupils with the bulge from primary coming through, we’ve not hit the teacher supply model targets for six years and the numbers leaving are increasing.
"These are worrying statistics. And this is in the context of competing for a shrinking pool of graduates with other professions which can offer more in terms of salary and progression. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy to address these issues.”