Home News Disadvantaged schools struggling most with teacher recruitment

Disadvantaged schools struggling most with teacher recruitment


Teachers in the most deprived state schools are less likely to report that their school department was well-staffed with qualified teachers, more likely to report that colleagues were planning to leave this summer, and less confident that current job vacancies would be filled, according to new research by Professor Becky Allen and Laura McInerney for the Sutton Trust.

The Recruitment Gap surveyed 3,000 primary and secondary school teachers through Teacher Tapp, an app that asks teachers in state and independent schools three questions a day. They were asked a series of questions about how recruitment difficulties and teacher shortages affect their school.

The survey also found that 85 per cent of teachers in the most deprived state schools think that recruitment issues were affecting the quality of education their school was providing, compared to 55 per cent of teachers in independent secondary schools, and 76 per cent in the most affluent state schools.

A large body of research shows that teacher quality is the most powerful driver of pupils’ attainment, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. These inequalities are likely to continue to hamper efforts to improve social mobility.

However, today’s report suggests that many schools with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils are struggling to recruit the teachers they need. Teachers who work in these schools are far more concerned about filling vacant posts than their colleagues in other schools: over half (58 per cent) said they were uncertain about their school’s ability to find suitable teachers. This compares to a third (35 per cent) of teachers in state secondary schools with the lowest number of disadvantaged pupils and just 11 percent in the independent sector.

As a result, almost a third (29 per cent) of teachers in the most disadvantaged schools expect to appoint teachers who aren’t well matched to the vacancies they have. A further 25 per cent said they anticipated serious recruitment difficulties or were certain they will end up having to use teachers who are not suitably qualified, or supply teachers. This suggests that if teacher shortages continue to rise, they will disproportionately affect schools that serve more disadvantaged communities.

The research also looked at the incentives that would lead teachers to seriously consider applying to teach at disadvantaged schools. While one in five teachers said that nothing would persuade them to apply for a job at a low-performing local school, over half (54 per cent) said they would if they could see a clearly enforced and effective behaviour policy.

Half (49 per cent) also said they would be attracted by a substantial promotion – likely to cost the school around £5,000. A similar proportion (48 per cent) said they would be persuaded by a guaranteed reduction in teaching timetable of around 25% – for a classroom teacher this is likely to cost around £10,000.

To make sure disadvantaged pupils have fair access to high-quality teaching, the Sutton Trust is recommending a number of steps, including:

  • That Pupil Premium funding is used by schools in deprived areas to prioritise the recruitment and retention of effective teachers, including on wages, in line with the recommendations of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Pupil Premium Guide.
  • That social segregation in schools is tackled through the school admissions system. A better social mix in schools would address some of the real and perceived challenges of teaching in schools with deprived and potentially challenging intakes. Priority for pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium at oversubscribed schools could have knock-on positive effects for all schools.
  • That schools need more support to address behaviour concerns, as this perception is a major obstacle to recruiting new teachers to disadvantaged schools.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust, said:

“Recruiting and retaining top-quality teachers is the biggest challenge our schools face. And, as our research shows, it is disadvantaged schools that are most affected by the lack of high-quality teachers.

“In order to address this problem we would like to see more schools using their Pupil Premium to recruit and retain good teachers. There should also be increased effort to address behaviour concerns.  This is a major obstacle to recruiting good teachers to disadvantaged schools.”

Professor Becky Allen, author of the report, said:

“Our research clearly shows that where a government allows teacher shortages to rise, whether through pay restraint policies, tuition fees on teacher training or as a consequence of high graduate employment, these shortages will disproportionately pool in schools that serve more disadvantaged communities. Unless these teacher shortages are resolved, inequalities in access to suitably qualified teachers will continue to increase.”

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