New National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) research, published today, shows that a teacher pay increase of 6.5% in 2023/24, as reportedly recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), is unlikely to solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis on it’s own.
The new report, Policy options for a long-term teacher pay and financial incentive strategy: an assessment of options and their impacts and costs carried out by the NFER and funded by the Gatsby Foundation suggests a new long term strategy is required to improve teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in Secondary Education STEM. The report suggests this long term strategy should focus on well-targeted financial incentives and action to improve the non-financial attractiveness of teaching alongside improving the competitiveness of teacher pay.
The Key Findings
- Nominal average teacher pay has grown more slowly compared to wages in the wider economy since 2010.
- If pay awards in 2024/25 and beyond merely match the anticipated growth in average earnings in the wider labour market then they are unlikely to significantly address the pressing recruitment and retention challenges. However the report found that increasing teacher pay at a higher rate than the expected growth in average earnings would begin to restore relative pay and likely have positive effects on teacher supply.
- The flattening of the main teacher pay scale by increasing teacher starting salaries at a faster rate than those of more experienced teachers has helped support the Government’s ambition to increase teacher starting salaries to £30,000. The report found that continuing with this approach could be cost-effective as scarce resources are targeted at teachers who are more responsive to changes in pay.
- Bursaries and early career payments boost teacher supply through targeting incentives at subjects and schools where challenges are most acute. The report recognizes the significant supply challenges occurring in secondary subjects, where undersupply has been most acutely evident for physics, computing, maths and chemistry teachers. The NFER recommends expanding early career payments to all subjects that are not reaching their recruitment target to all schools, with teachers in schools with higher proportions of free school meals attracting higher payments.
A Bolder Option
The report also suggests that a bolder option for pay would be to separate the primary and secondary pay scales. Under all of the pay models considered in the analysis primary teacher targets are met whereas overall secondary recruitment faces significant shortfalls. The report recognizes that this could have broader implications around fairness, potential impacts on quality and increases in the gender pay gap, but splitting the report modeling suggests that separating the primary and secondary pay scales could be a cost-effective longer-term option.
Jack Worth, School Workforce Lead at NFER and co-author of the report, said:
“The evidence on teacher recruitment and retention makes a clear and compelling case for the need for a new long-term strategy on teacher pay and financial incentives to address the intense teacher supply challenge.
“This would complement other strategies focused on making teaching more attractive in non-financial ways, such as workload reduction, increased opportunities to work more flexibly and increased access to high-quality professional development.
“As a bare minimum, an effective strategy needs to increase teacher pay by more than the rate of pay growth in the wider economy, expand the set of targeted financial incentives that are currently in place, and ideally both.”
You can read the full report here.
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