Teachers need better access to wellbeing services to keep them in the profession and improve social mobility, a cross-party group of MPs has said.
Today’s report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility warns that the attainment gap between children from different backgrounds is “one of the key challenges in our education system”.
It cites evidence that the single most important factor in the classroom in helping disadvantaged pupils improve their attainment is “the quality of the teacher providing the instruction”.
Becky Allen, then the director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science at UCL Institute of Education, told the MPs that the most disadvantaged secondary schools are more likely to have teachers with less experience and lower qualifications.
Opinion: We must change our definition of teacher wellbeing
Advice: Five ways to support teacher wellbeing on a shoestring
Royals: Duchess of Cambridge calls for more support for teacher wellbeing
And the report highlights teacher recruitment and retention as “a bigger challenge in the most disadvantaged schools and geographical areas with higher levels of deprivation”.
It warns that teachers in disadvantaged schools “may need additional support in order to manage the situations that they may find themselves in”.
It adds: “Professor Allen spoke about the fact that these teachers may find themselves in an environment which is more challenging due to the lives of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds inevitably spilling inside the school gates.
“It is teachers themselves who find themselves having to provide additional support to these pupils.
“Professor Allen said that this was understandably difficult and such challenging circumstances lead to high staff turnover, which in turn has consequences for the wider support networks teachers rely on in order to do their jobs well.”
The report recommends: “The government should build on the new recruitment and retention strategy and deliver on reforms that would reduce teacher stress and workload, particularly for those in more challenging schools.
“Additional support for early career teachers and greater flexible working is welcome, but should be accompanied by increased capacity in the system for teachers at all career stages to access wellbeing services, and a more flexible pay scale.”
The recommendation was welcomed by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
He told Tes: “Greater access to wellbeing services would be a positive step forward in terms of staff welfare and teacher retention, and something we would welcome.
"But it will only be deliverable at scale if it is accompanied by the funding which is necessary to make it a reality.
"Schools are creaking under the strain of real-terms cuts and many are struggling simply to make ends meet.”
Education secretary Damian Hinds said social mobility is "ultimately why I’m in politics".
He highlighted new initiatives launched this week to help families with the child's learning before they start school, as well as spending on the pupil premium, opportunity areas and Opportunity North East.
He added: “But we must not be complacent, which is why we have set 10 year ambition to halve the proportion of children who finish reception year without the communication and reading skills needed to thrive - I want to continue to support families to propel their children’s learning so they can go on to reach their full potential, whatever their background.”