Education Support’s Commission on Teacher Retention, supported by Public First, has published its final report
Education Support’s Commission on Teacher Retention, supported by Public First, has today published its final report, 1970s Working Conditions in the 2020s: Modernising the professional lives of teachers for the 21st century.
News 06 June 2023 / 4 mins read
Combining qualitative, quantitative and immersive research with expert - and teacher - testimony, the final report paints an extraordinary picture of the state of the teaching profession in England’s secondary schools in 2023.
Commissioners included Russell Hobby, chief executive of Teach First, Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, Sir Tim Brighouse, former London Schools Commissioner, and Dame Sally Coates, director of academies at United Learning. It was chaired by Evelyn Forde, president of ASCL.
The crisis in staffroom morale, and the drivers pushing tens of thousands of teachers prematurely out of their careers, is set out in stark terms. But the report also makes 10 recommendations that the government – and schools themselves – could make to stem the flow of pedagogical talent out of the classroom.
An extensive polling exercise of secondary teachers, supported by a programme of focus groups, produced a number of eyewatering conclusions. These included:
- 78 per cent of teachers said they would be likely to leave the profession if they were offered a job in another sector which promised a better work-life balance. This polled higher than better pay (64 per cent).
- More than 1 in 5 (21 per cent) secondary school teachers said they were unlikely to be in the profession in five years’ time. And with teachers working specifically in challenging educational contexts, known as Education Investment Areas, that figure climbed to nearly one quarter (24 per cent)
- 72 per cent of secondary teachers said they were helping students with non-academic matters relating to mental health and cost of living issues, a data point that increases to 82 per cent in EIAs
- 31 per cent said of teachers said their work-life balance was either bad or very bad.
The Commission on Teacher Retention's recommendations, taken together, represent a call for the complete overhaul of the working conditions of the teaching profession. They included:
- A call for a national review of the pay and conditions of teaching including their pay structure and their contracted hours;
- The Department for Education and its ministers should be held account for teacher retention data in the same way it is currently held account for teacher recruitment figures;
- Amid ever-increasing pressures being loaded on schools in the cost of living crisis and the post-covid era, official guidance of what is and isn’t a school’s responsibility;
- A formal review of school accountability including the function of Ofsted, looking specifically at the pressure it places on teachers;
- The creation of a fully-funded specialist Human Resources advisory service for schools, tasked with promoting and supporting them with the implementation flexible working and part-time arrangements;
- A national conversation about the significant shift in behaviour as well as the increase in emotional and mental health needs among children and young people. The additional pressure this places on teachers is unsustainable and goes beyond their professional expertise.
Resetting the social contract between teachers and the state and restoring the status of classroom professionals are necessary conditions for retaining talent in the sector.
Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO Education Support
Sinéad Mc Brearty, Chief Executive of Education Support, said: “Our school system does many things well, but it is antiquated and increasingly unattractive to those who have a choice in where they make their careers.
“Modernisation is not a political or philosophical preference: it is a pragmatic response to the data and to the evidence. Resetting the social contract between teachers and the state and restoring the status of classroom professionals are necessary conditions for retaining talent in the sector.
“If we can fix the retention crisis, we will also fix the recruitment crisis. We’re not just trying to rebuild the lives of teachers, we’re trying to rebuild the reputation of the profession.”
Sir Trevor Pears, Executive Chairman of the Pears Foundation, which also supported the Teacher Retention Commission, said: “Committed and talented teachers are being lost from our schools every term. This is a tragedy in its own right, but a failure to retain the best teachers in the poorest places puts at risk recent advances in both social mobility and social cohesion in some of this country’s most deprived communities. The future of a country is only as good as its present-day schools – and so the retention crisis is a huge worry.
“As such the Pears Foundation has been delighted to be associated with Education Support’s Teacher Retention Commission: its recommendations set out today demonstrate how we can begin to challenge this vicious cycle. We do hope they are adopted by the sector and the government.”
Ed Dorrell, partner at Public First, said: “We were incredibly excited to be commissioned to carry out this hugely important work.
“What we found in our qualitative and quantitative research was a profession in crisis. What we found when we talked to extraordinary schools, and when we took evidence from world-leading experts, was that there is a way of reversing this trend. We just need to have the courage to take that route.”
To download a full copy of the report visit 1970s working conditions in the 2020s: Modernising the professional lives of teachers for the 21st Century.