Increasing pay of early-career shortage-subject teachers key to averting retention crisis

23 March 2018 Lauren Golding

- Datalab Education report commissioned by the Gatsby Foundation, indicates paying early-career science and maths teachers a 5% salary supplement would eliminate the teacher shortage for these subjects in English Secondary schools.

- Institute of Fiscal Studies report: physics teachers leave the teaching profession to a greater extent than teachers of other subjects – policy focused on retention rather than training would be the most cost effective. 

Gatsby has today released two reports suggesting that an education policy with a distinct focus on retention would be more cost effective than current Government policy focusing on the recruitment and training of new teachers.

The first Gatsby commissioned report, by Education Datalab, shows that shortages of secondary maths and science teachers could have been eliminated with a modest 5% salary supplement during the initial five years of their careers. 

The report, authored by Sam Sims, used a data simulation to measure what the impact of a 5% pay increase for early years maths and science teachers in England would have been, had it been introduced as policy in 2010. The report reveals such a policy would have: 

  • Eliminated the shortage of science teachers experienced since 2010
  • Eliminated the maths teacher deficit by 2014
  • Increased retention and therefore increased the number of experienced teachers

For many years English Secondary schools have had difficulty recruiting teachers across maths, science, modern languages and computer science.  This is further compounded by increasing numbers leaving the profession, leading to an increasing teacher shortage. Whilst there are many reasons teachers leave the classroom, the pay differential between graduate roles available in teaching and those in non-teaching roles in the private sector could explain low retention of maths and science teachers in the early stages of their career.    

An effective and sustainable course of action would be for Government to increase the pay of shortage-subject teachers directly. The simulation in this research shows that a salary supplement policy would have eliminated the teacher shortage, and at a lower cost than simply recruiting more teachers.
Sam Sims, Education Datalab

The second report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), and funded by Gatsby, suggests the issue is even more pronounced with physics teacher retention. Just 3% of physics graduates enter teaching within the first few years of graduation, comparted to 12% of maths graduates. 40% of physics graduates who teach immediately after graduation leave the profession within three-and-a-half years.

Our research demonstrates that the retention of physics teachers is an acute problem and that we urgently need to devise pay and non-pay related strategies to address this.

Data analysis also shows that schools with full pay autonomy may not be using it to increase the salaries of physics teachers. This could be due to an aversion to within-school pay inequality, or a result of the effects of an overall squeeze on state school funding.
Professor Anna Vignoles, Institute of Fiscal Studies & University of Cambridge

At present, with a high staff turnover and low recruitment of maths and science teachers, state schools, particularly in economically-deprived areas, are finding themselves having to rely on inexperienced staff.

Hopefully, these reports will trigger a long-overdue debate – should we implement a modest salary supplement to maths and science teachers in the early stage of their careers, or continue to have a shortage of teachers in these core subjects? That is the question we face, and it’s time we sought an answer.

Ensuring a supply of high-quality, experienced teachers should be a priority for education policy-makers so we can provide a robust science and maths education for all, irrespective of background or economic circumstance.
Sir John Holman, Gatsby Foundation

To read and download the reports, please click here