Local pay and teacher retention in England

Think tank: Education Policy Institute

Author(s): Joshua Fullard; James Zuccollo

May 20, 2021

This report from UK think tank the Education Policy Institute looks at the current supply of teachers in England.

This report from the Education Policy Institute, funded by the Gatsby Foundation, examines the current supply of teachers in England, and considers whether reforms to pay policy, particularly at a local level, may lead to improvements in recruitment and retention. The pandemic has led to a surge in teacher numbers over the last year – however, there is now a risk that the subsequent economic recovery could result in a large proportion of this new intake leaving for other occupations. While improvements to the wider labour market after a recession often result in many teachers moving to alternative, higher-paying jobs, the report shows that the the current approach to setting salaries, together with a lack of incentives for teachers to remain in the profession, may only serve to exacerbate future supply problems. Pay is not the only reason behind teachers’ decision to leave the profession, but the research demonstrates that it can play a pivotal role. Policies such as modest, targeted top-up salary payments are shown to be highly effective at persuading teachers to stay. Despite the government acknowledging that the recent boost from the pandemic will only improve teacher numbers in the short term, it has recently removed such top-up payments – a decision which is likely to hinder efforts to retain the recent influx of teachers. The report also shows that the current design of pay policy for teachers is a barrier to recruitment and retention. It finds that many parts of England struggle to attract and keep hold of teachers due to a large local “pay gap”, with competing occupations offering higher salaries on average – over £5,000 (11%) more in areas around London. Closing these local pay gaps between teaching and non-teaching jobs is key to improving teacher supply: reducing the pay gap by 10% in the worst-affected regions would result in as many as 720 extra teachers in the local workforce. However, current policy for teacher pay offers little flexibility and prevents headteachers in these regions from being able to adjust salaries so that they are able to compete with higher-paying occupations.