From education to employment

Government Initiatives to Boost Teacher Wellbeing and Recruitment

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New measures to enhance recruitment and retention in the teaching profession have been announced by the government today (Monday 15 January).

They include £1.5 million of new investment to deliver a three-year mental health and wellbeing support package for school and college leaders; providing professional supervision and counselling to at least 2,500 leaders.

The Government is also committing to publish new guidance for schools – expected to be completed this spring – on how to prevent and tackle bullying and harassment of school staff.

After extensive consultation with school leaders and teachers, the measures have been announced around the improvements they believe will ensure that teaching remains an attractive and rewarding profession.

Separately, the Workload Reduction Taskforce – a cross-cutting group made up of unions, teachers, and sector leaders –has agreed early recommendations to help reduce teacher workload and encourage education staff wellbeing to support the Department’s aim to reduce teachers’ and leaders’ working week by five hours within the next three years. The group will make final recommendations on how to address the wider causes of teacher and leader workload to government, Ofsted, and school and trust leaders in Spring 2024.

This builds on the Public Sector Productivity Programme led by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor, revealing huge opportunities to cut admin, safely harness Artificial Intelligence and deliver early interventions to relieve pressure on public services. 

School Minister Damian Hinds said:

“Great teaching is the key ingredient to academic success – and while we now have more teachers than ever before – it’s crucial that we continue to ensure that teaching remains an attractive and rewarding profession.

“That’s why we have announced new investment and reforms today to support teacher wellbeing, ease workload pressures and tackle bullying and harassment of staff.

“Thanks to the hard work of teachers and pupils, standards in education have risen significantly since 2010, with nearly 90% of schools now rated good or outstanding.”

Earlier this year the Government delivered on the manifesto commitment to give every new teacher a starting salary of at least £30,000 – alongside the highest pay award for teachers in over thirty years. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, standards of education have risen sharply since this Government entered office in 2010, with 89% of schools rated outstanding by Ofsted, up from just 68% in 2010. 

The Secretary of State launched the Workload Reduction Taskforce alongside the pay award in July 2023. They were initially tasked with finding ways to maximise sign-up to the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter – a public commitment to the well-being and mental health of everyone working in education – and strengthening the implementation of the 2016 independent workload review groups’ recommendations which looked at on reducing teacher workload with marking, planning and data management. 

Alongside this, the Department is honouring its commitment to publish its progress update on the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter – two years after it was initially launched. The update shows the significant progress made on its pledges, including the commitment to: embed staff workload and well-being considerations into Government decisions; measure and respond to changes in staff wellbeing; and make sure guidance meets user needs. Over 3,000 schools and colleges have adopted the charter so far.

The Department has also renewed a contract with Now Teach to support career changers in teaching, helping bring talented, experienced professionals into the profession. The contract, valued at £1.5 million will support career changes up to October 2026.

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders union NAHT, said:

“Sadly, we have seen an increase in unacceptable behaviour towards school staff in recent years. Guidance on this may be of some help, however, we also need a clear message from the government that harassment and aggression towards school staff will never be tolerated. We urge the government to go further on this.”

“Every school leader deserves access to professional supervision and counselling where appropriate so an extension of this scheme is helpful. We urge the government to ensure that all school leaders can access fully funded supervision wherever they work.”

“But we also need the government to go beyond a focus on tackling the symptoms of stress and poor wellbeing in the school workforce. It is essential we also start tackling the root causes, including the overly punitive accountability regime that currently does so much harm.”

Richard Lawes, Director & Co-Founder, for onlyFE, said:

“This is a fitting and welcome announcement from the DfE on “Blue Monday”. Ongoing support and recognition for employee mental health and wellbeing is always applauded, but the government needs to go further to fix the root causes. Employee workload, expectations, and salaries require a dramatic overhaul if we are to improve staff attraction and retention.”

Luke O’Neill, Education Strategy Director, for Morgan Hunt, said:

This announcement marks a positive step towards addressing the critical issues of recruitment and retention of Teachers and Lecturers in the UK. The dedicated funding for mental health and wellbeing support for college and school leaders is a commendable initiative, providing them with essential skills and resources to better support their workforce.

Recent years have placed considerable strain on those in the sector, and retention remains a critical issue. Addressing well-being and mental health challenges is necessary for retaining qualified staff. In a recent survey of the FE sector conducted by Morgan Hunt, heavy workload, work/life balance, and health emerged as significant factors contributing to teachers leaving the profession in 2023. The schemes introduced today are crucial in mitigating these challenges, making teaching a more appealing and sustainable long-term career choice.

Sak Awan FIEP, Director of Employability and Skills, for S Knights Recruitment, said:

The initiative is a great sentiment from the DfE and will always be welcomed, yet fails to address the root cause of mental health and well-being for staff. Teaching once was and should still be an enriching, fulfilling and passion-fuelled career, we need to address what we need from what we expect of staff; and why, their workloads and how we tackle unacceptable behaviour from students.    

As a post-16 Adult Education and Training – Recruitment Agency, it saddens me that again, this is not a joined-up approach to address the challenges faced in Education and Training across Schools, Colleges and Independent Training Providers, but instead focuses solely on Schools and Colleges.

Whilst I feel this is a step in the right direction, I hope it’s one of many interventions we can expect to see in the near future.

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