A NEW report on local pay and teacher retention in England, published at the beginning of the week by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), has highlighted the severe problem of staff shortages as teachers are driven out of the profession because of over-work and underpay.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said of it: ‘The EPI report rightly highlights the severe teacher recruitment and retention problems, and the significant gaps between teacher pay and the pay of other graduate professions.
‘Changes to pay at a local level, suggested in the EPI report, will not however help with the recruitment and retention problems.
‘Effective action to tackle the teacher supply problems requires urgent improvements to teacher pay across education, including the restoration of a national pay structure to support fairness and transparency.
‘A sticking plaster approach of recruitment and retention incentives, or other pay adjustments limited to certain groups of teachers, is no substitute for the holistic solutions we need. The problems are system-wide and we need improvements to pay for all education staff.
‘The EPI report argues that there is too little differentiation in teacher pay, when there is in fact too much. Further pay flexibility, or regional pay, would damage and not improve teacher supply.
‘The dismantling of the national teacher pay structure since 2010 has removed the fairness and transparency needed to attract and retain the teachers we need, so further dismantling would take us in completely the wrong direction.
‘The recruitment and retention problems are deeply rooted. The problems extend across the country and across the curriculum. They have not been solved by the short-term impact of the pandemic.
‘It is a travesty that teaching can only recruit to target when there is a national crisis such as the pandemic. Any recent improvements will be short-lived unless there are urgent and significant improvements to teacher pay and conditions across education.
‘Instead the government plans to freeze teacher pay. On top of which, workload continues to rise – this is another key driver behind teachers leaving the profession, and in significant numbers within the first five years of starting teaching.
‘The NEU continues to press for the teacher pay levels and national pay structure that are essential if we are to tackle the recruitment and retention problems.’
Meanwhile, commenting on the evaluative report on how Initial Teacher Education (ITE) has worked during Covid-19, Dr Bousted said: ‘Trainee teachers, like all students, have faced severely disrupted courses in the past two academic years due to the pandemic.
‘Trainee teachers this year and last have struggled to get the classroom experience that is so crucial to building confidence in the role.
‘Just as crucially, it has been exceptionally difficult for them to be supported effectively by schools this academic year with so much disruption to classes, with all teachers and leaders pushed to the limit.
‘New and trainee teachers have been expected to get on with it in circumstances that have tested the most experienced professionals.
‘We urge the government to fully fund schools to deliver the practical support new teachers need to become confident and competent classroom practitioners, and not risk a further loss to the profession that the system can ill afford.’
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) report was then presented and summarised by Bousted as follows: ‘A new report by the EPI finds that a three-year funding package totalling £13.5bn will be required by the government to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.
‘The analysis, which models the impact of lost learning and sets out a series of fully costed, evidence-based proposals, shows that significant investment will be required to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to the nation that “no child is left behind.”
‘The government has stated that education recovery is central to its “build back better” agenda, and has already committed £1.7bn in short-term catch-up funding to support pupils in England in the wake of the biggest post-war disruption to the education system. A comprehensive, long-term education recovery plan is expected to be unveiled soon.
‘The EPI report draws on its latest research on lost learning carried out for the Department for Education (DfE), along with economic modelling on the long-run impact of the pandemic on young people’s employment and life chances, and a review of the most effective policies in supporting pupils’ attainment and wellbeing.
‘To reverse months of lost learning and prevent total lost future earnings for pupils running into the tens of billions, the research shows that the government will need to put in place an ambitious, multi-year programme of support.
‘Policies which EPI is calling on the government to implement include extended school hours for social and academic activities, additional Pupil Premium funding, summer wellbeing programmes, more incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”, further mental health support in schools and an option for some pupils to retake the year.
‘The series of education interventions total £13.5bn over the course of this Parliament and, taken together, would seek to reverse the lost learning seen by pupils since March 2020. The package compares with the DfE’s annual schools budget for England of £48bn.
‘While regaining months of lost academic progress must be the immediate priority, the report argues that, if implemented effectively, such interventions should be retained beyond the three-year period to address pre-existing inequalities in education and improve outcomes.
‘EPI research shows that, prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs – with that attainment gap already starting to widen.
‘The retention of these policies should also be met with further investment beyond schools – in wider children’s services and mental health services; supported by an urgent child poverty strategy.’
- Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has detailed how 30% of Covid-related spending on education in England is due to come from existing budgets.
On this issue Dr Bousted said: ‘This report from the IFS exposes another example of the gap between government rhetoric about investing in education recovery and the reality.
‘Creative accounting will not fool parents, teachers and the community.
‘The government have allocated just £250 per pupil, which compares poorly with other nations like the United States and the Netherlands – which are investing £1,600 and £2,500 per pupil respectively.’