Staff in shortage subjects offered £10k extra a year

9th October 2015 at 00:00
Desperate heads compete for teachers who are ‘like gold dust’

Schools are being forced to offer teachers in shortage subjects salary premiums of up to £10,000 extra a year as the recruitment crisis bites, TES can reveal.

Competition between heads to secure much-needed staff in a red hot recruitment market means the pay that some classroom teachers can command has sky-rocketed.

One Cambridgeshire headteacher has revealed that he is prepared to pay £10,000 more a year for a Spanish teacher than he was just 12 months ago. TES has also learned of a secondary willing to pay a head of science a £50,000 salary.

Heads’ unions say salary hikes for teachers of shortage subjects are now widespread. Premiums of between £2,000 and £5,000 compared with two years ago are not uncommon, they say.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT union, said £10,000 extra was at the “top end of the scale”. But he warned: “In the next couple of years, it is going to become even more challenging.”

Early results from the forthcoming TES Recruitment Index – which will offer schools detailed analysis of the teacher supply market when it is published next month – show that the most sought-after teacher type in England is a secondary physics teacher in London.

“I have no idea what a physics teacher would cost me in London as they are so rare. You would have to prepare to invest,” said Ben Thompson, headteacher of the Trinity Academy, a new free school in Brixton, South London, which has not yet had to recruit a physics specialist.

‘Big shift’ in pay grades

Mr Thompson revealed that he was prepared to pay £50,000 for a head of science, whereas just three years ago he would have offered £40,000.

“That’s a big shift,” he said. “A few years ago that would be how much you paid for an assistant head.

“There’s a much bigger range of salaries than before and quite often teachers demand higher salaries. They are aware they are in shortage subjects and can market themselves. My best resource is my staff and that’s why I want to invest. But then I have to think, where am I going to make cuts elsewhere?”

Schools have more flexibility to pay higher salaries after the coalition government’s decision to scrap the national pay scale for teachers in 2013. But as salaries rise in response to shortages, school budgets are being squeezed further.

“Headteachers are becoming increasingly desperate to attract and retain teachers, but they are not being given enough money to do so,” Mr Hobby said.

‘We’re forced to splash out’

This year, one Cambridgeshire head is “splashing out” for the first time on recruitment, as a result of the shortage. Rob Campbell, headteacher at Impington Village College, near Cambridge, told TES that he was willing to pay “at any rate on the teachers’ pay scale” for a Spanish teacher.

Despite budget pressures, he said he would be prepared to pay an M6 £32,831 salary to a teacher who last year would only have been offered £22,244.

“I’m putting the fattest and juiciest maggot on the hook to make the best bait,” he said. “To get the right teacher I am willing to pay an extra £10,000. I have to have a person teaching Spanish. I can’t cut back on that, so we will have to cut back in other ways.”

Mr Campbell said he was also willing to pay premiums for science and maths teachers.

“A physics teacher can now say, ‘I will only work for you if I get M6’, despite them only teaching for a year, because they are like gold dust. There is a laissez-faire marketplace now,” the headteacher said.

The TES Recruitment Index shows that, after secondary physics teachers in London, the next rarest teachers are secondary maths specialists in the East of England, followed by teachers in the same subject in the South East of England.

The index – an extensive survey of recruitment rates – also reveals that the hardest subjects to fill across the country are physics, media, maths, English and IT.

Tempting ex-teachers back

The government is trying to boost teacher recruitment in core academic subjects through a pilot scheme offering state schools £1,900 for each teacher currently working outside the sector, with the aim of luring them back to teach English Baccalaureate subjects by November 2016.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have given all schools greater flexibility to set staff pay and offer their best teachers a pay rise.

“This is in contrast to the old system, which awarded teachers pay rises simply for time served, regardless of whether or not they were doing a good job.”

Teacher-training places go unfilled

Nearly half of modern foreign language teacher-training places are left unfilled, according to figures released last week.

The statistics, published by university admissions body Ucas, show drastic shortages in key subjects in the final days before training courses began.

For modern foreign languages, an English Baccalaureate subject, only 810 places had been filled – just 54 per cent of the 1,514 trainees needed, according to the government’s teacher-supply model.

The official figures, which show the situation as of 21 September, also reveal that less than three-quarters of the trainees needed had been recruited in RE, business studies, art, classics and physics.

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