Workload is biggest barrier to retaining teachers, and four other findings in today's NAO report

The main findings from today's report on teacher recruitment

Eleanor Busby

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A new report on teacher recruitment and retention has been released by the National Audit Office (NAO) today. Here are some of the main findings: 

1. Workload is the biggest barrier to teacher retention 

A survey from the government spending watchdog found that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of school leaders see workload as a barrier to teacher retention. 

The Department for Education (DfE) published an action plan on workload earlier in the year – including offering grants to groups of schools to conduct workload reviews – but the NAO concludes that the government has "not set out how it expects teacher workload to change". 

In the report, the watchdog calls on the DfE to explicitly assess the workforce implications for schools of key policy changes and guidance, especially the impact on teachers’ workload.

2. Teachers are increasingly leaving before retirement age

Teachers are increasingly leaving for reasons other than retirement.

The number of qualified teachers retiring fell by 1.5 percentage points from 3.3 per cent of the qualified workforce (13,880) in 2011 to 1.8 per cent (7,760) in 2016.

Over the same period, the number leaving for other reasons increased by 2.1 percentage points (9,650) from 6 per cent (25,260) of the qualified workforce to 8.1 per cent (34,910).  

The NAO recommends that the DfE should work with the sector to understand better why more teachers are leaving before retirement and how to attract more former teachers back in.

It should work with the sector on how to implement flexible working or provide refresher training to former teachers looking to return, according to the report. 

3. Schools are struggling to fill posts with quality teachers

According to the new NAO survey, only half (52 per cent) of secondary school vacancies in 2015-16 were filled by teachers with the experience and expertise required. 

And in around one tenth of cases, schools did not fill the vacancy at all.

Overall, the number of reported teacher vacancies has increased but remains low as a proportion of the total workforce.

In 2016 schools reported that they had 4,200 vacancies and posts filled temporarily (1.2 per cent), compared with 2,170 (0.6 per cent) in 2010.

The proportion of secondary schools reporting at least one teacher vacancy rose from 15.9 per cent in 2010 to 23 per cent in 2015. 

For primary schools, the proportion rose from 4.2 per cent to 6.9 per cent over the same period. 

4. There are regional variations in the supply of teachers

The extent of teacher vacancies varies across the country, although in all regions the proportion of schools reporting at least one vacancy increased between 2010 and 2015

The North East had the lowest proportion of schools reporting at least one vacancy (16.4 per cent of secondary schools), while outer London (30.4 per cent) and the South East (26.4 per cent) had the highest proportions of secondary schools.

The NAO report criticises the government for lacking data on local teacher supply and demand.

5. But it is not all bad…

According to today's report, there are now more pupils in schools where Ofsted has rated the quality of teaching and learning as "good" or "outstanding". 

Overall, 82 per cent of secondary school pupils in 2016 were in schools where Ofsted rated the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as "outstanding" or "good". 

The report also found that a greater number of qualified teachers are returning to state schools. In 2016, 14,200 teachers returned to work in state schools – an increase of 1,110 since 2011.

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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