It has long been recognised that schools serving disadvantaged communities are more likely to be staffed by teachers without qualified teacher status, with fewer years of experience and by non-specialist science and maths teachers. Inequality in access to suitably qualified, high quality teachers is likely to be an important contributor to the attainment gap that exists between students who come from disadvantaged families and those who do not.
In this report, we analyse survey responses from over 7,000 primary and secondary school teachers in order to expand our understanding of how teachers feel that recruitment difficulties and teacher shortages affect their school. Surveys were conducted through Teacher Tapp, an app that asks teachers in state and independent sectors three questions a day. ‘The Recruitment Gap’ is authored by Teacher Tapp’s founders, Professor Becky Allen and Laura McInerney.
- Social inequalities in teacher recruitment should be monitored by government. Understanding this is crucial since not all schools are equally affected by teacher shortages.
- Spending pupil premium money on teacher wages and professional development may help disadvantaged schools to overcome their recruitment struggles. While this is already allowed under pupil premium spending guidelines, this needs to be emphasised further.
- Schools serving more challenging communities need support in creating a working environment that can appeal to teachers who might not otherwise consider them.
- Since ‘reputation’ is important in teacher recruitment, schools need help in signalling what it is like to work at their school, and teachers should be helped to make decisions with greater confidence. This could include being more specific in job adverts about workload, behaviour management and training opportunities.
- Social segregation in schools should be tackled. Many of the issues highlighted in this report are as a result of inequalities in school intakes. A more even social mix in schools would help to address disparities in perceived reputation.
- The government could consider requiring teachers in receipt of substantial bursaries to teach in more disadvantaged schools or in particular areas as a condition of the bursary. This would need to be done with care, ensuring that a place at one of these schools was indeed available to the trainee teachers and that the school was able to provide them with the sort of environment where they were able to thrive.
- More should be done to ensure the initial allocation of training places reflects local supply needs. Where there are parts of the country with shortages and no existing training provision, long-term shortages might best be addressed by the government proactively setting up a new initial teacher training organisation, whether as part of a school, a trust or as a stand-alone entity.