COVID-19 affect teacher recruitment

Will COVID-19 affect teacher recruitment in the UK?

During the middle of this year’s coronavirus pandemic, a report published by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) looked at how the school system was progressing with the country’s ongoing teacher supply challenge.

Key findings of the Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2020 included:

  • Even though the number of entries to postgraduate secondary teacher training increased in 2019/20 compared to the year before, secondary recruitment remains substantially below the numbers required to meet demand.
  • Teachers work longer term-time hours than other professionals in a typical week, but the latest data suggests that teachers’ working hours reduced by one hour per week in 2018/19.
  • The secondary teacher leaving rate has fallen by 0.5 percentage points in 2018/19, which represents 1,350 teachers: nearly half of the under-recruitment to initial teacher training in 2019/20.

Despite signs of encouragement, the teaching profession still faces many challenges attracting and keeping talent. But will COVID-19 affect teacher recruitment in the UK?

Let’s take a closer look…

Recession and recruitment go hand-in-hand

As a result of the economic crisis that COVID-19 has caused, there has been a huge spike in applications to become a teacher. Where there are pupils, there are secure jobs to be found, right?

Another reason for this increased interest in teaching could be because of the government’s proposal for pay uplifts and a starting salary of £30,000 by 2020.

According to NFER, applicants are more likely to be recent graduates, and in the 21 to 25-year-old age bracket. There are even regional variations for those interested in the mobility, economic conditions and career routes a teacher can take.

It’s fair to say that recruiters will now have to pay close attention to the motivations behind those wanting to pursue a career in teaching. They must also be able to communicate that no job in education is 100% secure, especially in turnaround schools and for those of a certain age.

Placements and funding in decline

It’s no secret that school funding, particularly in the further education sector, has been decimated over the last decade. And in a post-COVID world, school placements that teacher training providers offer are sure to drop dramatically too.

As of July 2020, there are approximately 20 per cent fewer placements in primary schools and 6.7 per cent in secondary schools. So with over 20,000 teachers joining the teaching profession each year, we could find ourselves with at least 4,000 fewer teachers in 2021.

Schools are also reluctant to take on additional teachers because the increased workload that current staff have as a result of the pandemic means they’re unable to provide sufficient support.

Recession or attrition?

COVID-19 has given many people added perspective on their lives and careers. But does this mean coronavirus has encouraged teachers to stay in the profession, or encouraged them to leave?

Well, the data suggests that in primary and secondary schools when compared to this time last year, teachers are now less likely to leave the classroom. Even so, the vast majority of teachers surveyed (n 1,782) said that they were still undecided about leaving the profession.

The NFER also reports that teacher targets are likely to be met in each subject, but gaps in physics, design and technology are unlikely to fully close.

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