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New Study Reveals Dynamic Recruitment Trends in Further Education (FE) Colleges Amidst and Post COVID-19 Pandemic

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Data-driven analysis from Gatsby Charitable Foundation and SchoolDash highlights stark contrast of recruitment trends observed in FE colleges, sixth form colleges, and UTCs compared to schools 

Building on previous research commissioned into teacher recruitment and retention in schools, Gatsby Charitable Foundation and SchoolDash have published data on recruitment activity for further education (FE) colleges, sixth-form colleges, and university technical colleges (UTCs) from September 2018 to the end of March 2024.  

Today’s report provides valuable information on recruitment activity before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings, published in full by SchoolDash show:  

A brief downturn, followed by rapid recovery  

FE colleges saw a transient drop in recruitment activities at the pandemic’s onset, followed by a surge—job adverts increased by over 50% in 2021 and 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels, before returning to nearly normal figures. 

Year-round recruitment 

Contrary to schools, recruitment within FE colleges does not appear to be seasonal, with consistent activity throughout the year. Post-pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift, with more recruitment happening in the year’s first half. 

Key subject areas unchanged 

Despite the pandemic, the demand for certain subjects – construction, engineering, digital, business, and health – remained steady, underscoring these areas’ enduring relevance. 

Distinct recruitment patterns from schools 

The recruitment trends observed in FE colleges, sixth form colleges, and UTCs present a stark contrast to those in schools, hinting at the pandemic’s multifaceted impact, possibly influenced by a combination of advertising strategies, staff turnover, and labour market conditions. 

This initial analysis of job advertisements in further education is part of a programme of commissioned research including the role of industry associates, initial teacher education (ITE), salaries, and mentoring to build a picture and map trends in teacher recruitment and retention in FE colleges. This sits alongside Gatsby’s existing programme of work to generate insights and policy recommendations on the recruitment and retention of schoolteachers. 

Timo Hannay, Founding Managing Director of SchoolDash said:

“The results published today suggest that colleges – especially FE colleges – show different patterns of recruitment to schools and, furthermore, that the COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial, in some cases ongoing, effects. It is not possible to discern from these results alone whether the recent trends are due to a greater propensity among colleges to advertise vacancies on their website, genuine increases in staff turnover or general tightness in British labour markets, but they seem likely to be caused by a combination of such factors.” 

Jenifer Burden, Director of Programmes, Gatsby Charitable Foundation said:

“Our work highlights the critical requirement for comprehensive national data on how people enter the FE workforce and what makes them stay. Collectively these research projects underscore the need for targeted policies and initiatives to address the challenges facing FE teacher recruitment and retention. By ensuring a sufficient supply of high-quality, industry-experienced teachers, we can safeguard the delivery of strong technical education, and support our FE sector.” 

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