How Has Teacher Retention and Recruitment Been Affected by COVID-19?

With the education sector hit hard in terms of both finance and curriculum in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to ask how it will impact teacher recruitment and retention.

The rate of teacher retention in the UK has been a crucial issue for some time. So what’s the current situation regarding COVID-19 and this concern?

The Current State of Teacher Recruitment

On 20th March 2020, schools across the UK closed to mitigate the spread and damage of the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of April, a report by SchoolDash and the Gatsby Foundation announced teacher recruitment was down, at a number between 50% and 60%

In the UK, job adverts for new teachers generally peak around April, with teachers already in the profession having to resign by May to start their new position in September. Because of the pandemic, this usual process was affected, as both schools and teachers were unsure of their respective futures and finances. 

The report writes, “By 3rd April, two weeks after school closures, these year-on-year variances amounted to about 2,000 fewer teacher vacancy advertisements than is usual for this time of year.”

Due to the social distancing measures in place, there’s also the added effect of not being able to hold proper interviews, even if positions were open. There’s also the technical needs that come with online interviews, such as reliable internet connection for both interviewers and interviewees. Without something as basic as this, recruitment efforts will be severely limited.

Additionally, if classrooms need to be made smaller to accommodate social distancing measures, this means there needs to be more teachers. Only recently, the Scottish teaching union, EIS, stated that the Scottish education system needed to recruit “thousands of new teachers and hundreds of teaching assistants and support staff” in order to ‘kick-start’ education as we come out of lockdown. 

Teacher Retention and COVID-19

The rate of teacher retention for newly qualified teachers has been varied over the past number of years, according to a report by the UK Government, as part of the School Workforce Census:

  • 2014: 86.3%.
  • 2015: 86.1%.
  • 2016: 85.1%.
  • 2017: 85.1%.
  • 2018: 85.4%.

However, it did stabilise in 2017 and increase in 2018. Of the teachers who earned their qualifications in 2014, 67.4% were still working as teachers after five years. This happens to be lower than the five-year rate seen in the previous year, which was 68%. 

As we cannot measure these rates immediately, we’ll have to wait to see how COVID-19 has truly affected teacher retention rates. Yet, because of the pandemic, there’s been a potential upside. 

Due to the economic uncertainty, this may reduce the number of teachers who leave the profession in the coming years. Some teachers will likely have second thoughts about changing jobs because of this uncertainty. 

In the report mentioned previously, the Gatsby Foundation stated:

“The longer-term dynamics of the teacher recruitment market is likely to be determined by whether teachers decide to actively seek new roles for the next academic year. Economic uncertainty often causes employees to decide to stay put, rather than seek promotions or careers in other sectors. 

“In a typical year, many state school teachers would seek work in UK private schools or international schools, but both these sectors are likely to be experiencing considerable economic shock at present. When searching for UK state school posts, teachers might perceive it to be risky to take on a new appointment at a school they cannot visit.”

Economic factors may also affect the performance of students, with a BBC study finding there’s a positive relationship between times of economic hardship and student results.

“Teachers recruited during a recession and a tougher jobs market are more likely to get better results for their pupils,” the article explains. The study states recessions offer the government a ‘window of opportunity’ to hire teachers who may not have chosen that specific career path. 

However, this is a trend that may not be repeated. At this point, it’s difficult to ascertain the current effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having and will have on teacher retention rates. 

Teacher retention rates aren’t the only areas of the UK’s education sector COVID-19 has influenced. From financial issues to a school’s entire curriculum, the pandemic has had a knock-on effect on every process within the industry. 

Because of that, education professionals need to keep up with the changes and information surrounding this challenging transitionary period.