Education Research Programme


What matters in education? - Seminar #1

Teacher recruitment, retention and development are global issues. Yet governments have struggled to find effective and sustainable solutions to this crisis.

Teacher recruitment, retention and development - rethinking policy and practice priorities

Key questions for debate

  • What attracts teachers to join the profession?
  • What encourages them to leave?
  • What are the best ways to address the current staffing crisis in UK schools?

Opening topicsSpeakers

Getting great teachers to challenging schools

Rt Hon. David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute

Teacher recruitment, development and retention is a worldwide challengePeter Kent, President of the International Confederation of Principals
Asking the Right Questions about Teacher Retention: Where Teachers Stay and How They ThriveQing Gu, Professor of Leadership in Education, UCL Institute of Education and Director of The UCL Centre for Educational Leadership
Support not Surveillance:  How to solve the teacher retention crisis. Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union

What we heard

Challenges in England

England faces a significant problem with recruitment and retention of the teaching workforce

  •  recruitment into ITE 2022/23 was 20 per cent lower than in the previous year, with most secondary subjects not likely to meet the DfE targets (NFER, 2023).
  • retention rates are now at their lowest level since the data was first published in 2010 (EPI, 2023) schools in disadvantaged areas experience higher teacher turnover, greater vacancy rates, more reliance on supply teachers, and fewer subject specialists (EPI, 2020)
  • Teachers in the UK have some of the highest working hours of OECD countries and are also the most monitored (Bousted, 2022).  
  • The combination of high work intensity with little professional discretion over how teachers do their job creates stress and burnout (NFER, 2020)
Global Challenges

Recruitment and retention are global issues

  • leaders and teachers feel burnt out by the pressures of Covid and the demands the return to face to face education poses the pressures are impacting upon health, well being, and basic family life
  • the desire to readjust work-life balance is leading many staff to quit
  • human as well as structural factors must be taken into account
Retention First, recruitment second

The profession can’t recruit its way out of the staffing crisis.

  • 40% of newly qualified teachers in 2009 have left the profession 10 years later (DfE, 2019)
  • The key to teacher retention is the quality of the school environment
  • Good leadership invests in a supportive school culture
  • This is a necessary condition if early career teachers are to develop and thrive; and mid-career teachers stay

Questions the audience raised

a word cloud in reds, yellows and purples with the following words: research, funding, staffing policy, policy, professional autonomy, new approach, professional status, specialist teacher, school composition, professional knowledge

The changes we need to make

The panel discussion teased out what needs to change if teaching is to become a fulfilling and attractive career in its own right.  There are different contributions policymakers, researchers and practitioners can make.


To make a difference 

  • channel substantially more funding to schools in areas of highest disadvantage
  • design pay policies that help recruit teachers in shortage subjects and encourage them to work in challenging schools
  • make the existing accountability framework fairer to teachers and leaders who are teaching in areas of disadvantage
  • reduce workload and improve working conditions, particularly in more challenging schools, where the work pressures are likely to be most intense.
  • rebuild a family of support services around the school, linking education with social policy
  • make reducing child poverty a policy priority

To fill knowledge gaps

  • explore ways of developing a resilient school culture that supports the individuals within it
  • bring evidence to bear on what motivates teachers to teach and which aspects of the working environment need to change to make teaching an attractive and interesting career
  • develop better metrics to judge how well schools prepare young people with the range of skills and abilities they will need for the future
  • track the impacts persistent child poverty has on education and wellbeing

To make schools a more attractive place to work

  • invest in a sense of collective endeavour and collective agency at school level
  • create a safe space for leaders to share common concerns and challenges
  • build stronger connections between schools that encourage resource sharing
  • encourage schools to respond at the local level to the local challenges that centralised policy directives cannot reach
  • value teachers’ professional agency and professional knowledge


To read more about these issues, follow these links