New focus on wellbeing aims to boost teacher recruitment and retention

The government has announced a new initiative to boost the recruitment and retention of teachers by focusing on the wellbeing of those in the profession.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) annual conference in Birmingham on Friday, education secretary Damian Hinds said: “As part of the recruitment and retention strategy we want to help you all provide supportive schools culture and as part of that today I’m announcing my plan to set up an advisory group on wellbeing.

“The group will provide expert advice and work with us to look at how we as the government and school leaders as the employers can promote wellbeing among our dedicated teaching staff.”

According to the Times Educational Supplement almost a third of teachers have experienced a mental health problem in the past year, while the number of headteachers and senior leaders who are stressed and showing signs of depression has risen sharply, with some turning to alcohol in a bid to cope.

This has added to the shortage of teachers, which according to a report by Grant Thornton, citing government projections, means an additional 115,000 primary and 113,000 secondary school teachers will be required to meet government targets by 2021.

The Advisory Group brings together head teachers and principals, teaching and college unions, professional bodies and mental health charity Mind. 

Katie Waldegrave, CEO of education recruiter Now Teach, which focuses on people who have worked in other careers before moving into teaching, told Recruiter she welcomed the initiative: “There does seem to be an increase in stress and complexity in the classroom, and as long as that perception exists that is only going to be reinforced.

“Clearly retention is as much of a problem as recruitment, and this shows there is greater recognition that it isn’t all about recruitment.” 

The announcement builds on the government’s strategy, launched earlier this year, which set out the government’s approach to recruiting and retaining more teachers. 

The key features are:

  • simplifying the process of applying to become a teacher – introducing a new one-stop application system to make applications easier for would-be teachers and making it easier for more people to experience classroom teaching
  • helping school leaders to reduce teachers’ workload 
  • creating a more diverse range of options for career progression – helping schools to introduce flexible working practices through a new match-making service for teachers seeking a job-share and developing specialist qualifications and non-leadership career routes for teachers that want to stay in the classroom, with additional incentives to work in challenging schools
  • an early careers framework
  • extra financial incentives to encourage talented teachers to stay in the classroom, including a reform of bursaries.

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