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How to Solve a Problem Like Teacher Shortages

About 2 months ago By Michelle Tilley

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Teacher shortages are a pressing concern for schools and head teachers. Schools across the country face a recruitment and retention crisis as fewer educators enter the workforce than are leaving.

In the 2021–22 academic year, around 40,000 educators resigned from state schools in England (9% of the teaching workforce). This is the highest number of resignations since data collection started in 2011. In addition, around 4000 teachers retired. These findings came from the Department for Education (DfE) workforce survey.

Unfilled teaching vacancies contribute to teacher shortages, with 2300 vacant posts in state schools. The pandemic has taken a toll on the health and mental wellbeing of teachers. According to government findings, the percentage of teachers who took sickness absence in 2021/22 was 68% (compared with 45% in 2020/2021).

The challenges posed by teacher shortages impact pupil learning, school operations, and educational quality. So, what are the practical strategies that schools can use to ensure a robust teaching workforce?

Why are there Teacher Shortages? 

Several factors contribute to teacher shortages in the UK and the reasons include: 

• Increasing Pupil Numbers: The school population is growing, with more pupils entering the system. This puts pressure on teacher recruitment and retention.

• Attrition: Experienced teachers leave the profession due to workload, stress, or lack of support.

• Recruitment Challenges: Difficulty in attracting new talent to teaching roles.

• Retention Struggles: Retaining teachers beyond their initial years.

• Subject-Specific Shortages: Certain subjects (such as STEM) face acute shortages.

How can we Mitigate Teacher Shortages?

From encouraging work-life balance through flexible schedules and reducing administrative burdens to hiring teaching assistants and planning supply cover, there are many ways to mitigate teacher shortages. 

Invest in Teacher Wellbeing

High levels of stress, burnout, and dissatisfaction among educators contribute to increased absenteeism and resignations.  Prioritise teacher wellbeing by offering stress management workshops, and mental health resources. A key indicator of a healthy work environment is the reduction of educator absenteeism, a challenge that can be addressed by implementing strategies to promote mental, emotional, and physical health.

Tools and Technology

Are there tasks that can be reduced with automation? One McKinsey report suggests that 20 to 40 per cent of the tasks that teachers spend time on (marking, lesson planning, and administration) could be outsourced to technology. Automation can be an asset in managing administrative tasks, freeing up more time for teacher engagement with pupils. Ensure teachers have access to and are aware of tools such as Quizlet, Google Forms, and Diagnostic Questions that can save teachers time and reduce workload.

Provide Flexible Teaching Models

Part-time or flexible working arrangements can improve staff retention. Given the flexibility to balance their work and personal lives, educators are more likely to stay with the school. This reduces the cost and time associated with recruiting and training new staff. Not only can flexibility assist with educator wellbeing, but it can also help create a diverse and inclusive workplace. It allows for a more diverse range of people to join the profession, including those who need flexibility due to caring responsibilities or other commitments.

Plan supply cover

Supply teachers are a vital resource for schools, especially in times of teacher shortages, teacher absences, and unexpected vacancies. Finding and hiring good supply teachers can be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming.  That’s why many schools build a supply pool of trusted and reliable teachers who can step in. A supply pool is a group of supply teachers who have a relationship with a school. They are familiar with the school’s policies, procedures, and expectations. Supply teacher planning is an integral part of most UK school recruitment strategies, and for good reason.

Pre-planned supply teaching requirements can help cover instances including:

• maternity leave

• long-term illness

• retirement

• permanent positions that you are recruiting for. 

When a teacher or teaching assistant is absent, it can cause chaos in the classroom and disrupt the learning of the students. Having a pool of reliable supply teachers and support lined up in advance can help schools avoid the stress and chaos that can arise from a last-minute absence.

Invest in Teacher Training and Development

High levels of stress, burnout, and dissatisfaction among educators contribute to increased absenteeism and resignations.  Prioritise teacherwellbeing by offering stress management workshops and mental health resources. A key indicator of a healthy work environment is the reduction of educator absenteeism. Strategies to promote wellbeing can help address this.  

Consider Modern-day Classroom Challenges

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term in the classroom. It refers to those whose brains function differently. Department for Education figures show thatover 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs (SEN). The prevalence of SEN in schools has been rising, with 17.3% of all pupils identified as having additional needs. 

With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, autism, and dyslexia having more awareness, there are challenges for teachers. Teaching differently-abled students with different needs adds another layer of complexity. It is here that specialist SEN teachers, teaching assistants, and tutors can help relieve the pressure on teachers. Schools in England struggle to support pupils with special educational needs because of insufficient support staff. Support workers play a vital role in supporting children with different needs.

Invest in Support Staff

Teaching assistants (TAs) play a crucial role in education, providing support and assistance to both teachers and pupils. TAs in schools:

• provide support for teaching and learning in the class

• support classroom management

• Support pupils with SEND

• reduce teacher workload

Utilise Tutoring

Tutoring and teaching are often used interchangeably but tutoring gives pupils individual attention they won’t get in a classroom. For disadvantaged pupils who would not otherwise be able to afford private tutoring, this effective intervention can play a big role in raising attainment and easing the burden on educators too. Tutoring programmes,such as the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) and bespoke tutoring programmes, can alleviate the educator workload. 

Moving Forward

By implementing these strategies, schools and head teachers can start to create a sustainable teaching workforce that positively impacts pupils’ lives and the future of education.

To discover how we can help support you with your school this academic year, contact your local branch.