Rise of working from home ‘making teacher shortages worse’

Teachers are not compensated for the ‘inflexibility in working arrangements’ compared to graduates in other professions, researchers said - borchee/E+
Teachers are not compensated for the ‘inflexibility in working arrangements’ compared to graduates in other professions, researchers said - borchee/E+

Teacher shortages are being made worse by the rise of home working in other professions, a report has warned.

The study, by the National Foundation of Educational Research (NFER), found that teacher vacancies in England are almost twice their pre-Covid level.

Researchers said the rise had coincided with the widespread adoption of remote working in other professions post-pandemic. Forty-four per cent, of graduates trained to a similar level were mainly working from home in 2021-22 – up from 15 per cent in 2018-19.

The study found that “the lack of availability of home working could represent a threat to the relative attractiveness of teaching”.

The competitive threat to the profession is particularly high because teachers are not compensated for the “inflexibility in working arrangements” compared to graduates in other professions, researchers said.

Earnings growth gap widens

The study found the gap in real earnings growth between teachers and graduates of similar age, religion and region had widened significantly since the pandemic.

In 2018-19, real earnings growth since 2010-11 was about four percentage points lower for teachers than for similar graduates. In 2021-22, the gap since 2010-11 had widened to 11 percentage points.

Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, said: “Against the growth of remote working and rising graduate salaries in other sectors, we must ensure the teaching profession remains competitive.”

Teaching unions are in negotiations with Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, over pay, conditions and workload.

The Government has pledged to increase teacher starting salaries to £30,000 by 2023. For more experienced teachers, the Department for Education has recommended a pay rise of 3.5 per cent next year. Most teachers received a five per cent pay rise for the present academic year.

Recruitment targets expected to be missed

The number of teacher vacancies posted by schools in the academic year to February was 93 per cent higher than at the same point in the year before the pandemic, NFER found.

Meanwhile, registrations to teacher training courses fell by 20 per cent compared to the year before the pandemic. At secondary schools, recruitment fell short of targets in 13 out of 17 subjects.

NFER said it expected the Government to miss its recruitment targets again this year. Jack Worth, the organisations school workforce lead and co-author of the report, said teacher shortages mean school leaders are “increasingly resorting to the use of non-specialist teachers to plug gaps, which will ultimately affect pupil attainment outcomes”.

He said the 2023 teacher pay award “should exceed 4.1 per cent – the latest forecast of the rise in average UK earnings next year – to narrow the gap between teacher pay and the wider labour market and improve recruitment and retention”.

Mr Worth added: “This should be accompanied by a long-term plan to improve the competitiveness of teacher pay while, crucially, ensuring schools have the funds to pay for it.”