From education to employment

Labour’s plan for world-class teachers to reduce agency payments as schools pay recruiters £8 billion to find new teachers since 2010

male teacher

Labour has pledged to save taxpayers billions of pounds paid by schools each year to teacher recruitment agencies through its new plan to embed “world-class teaching for every child” and drive “high and rising standards” in schools.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson pledged to reduce payments to fill growing teaching agencies in response to new analysis by the party, which found that state schools in England have paid recruitment agencies more than £8 billion in fees since 2010 to fill teaching growing vacancies. 

Written answers to Parliamentary Questions tabled by Labour’s Phillipson revealed that the total included £1.98 billion spent on fees by Local Authority maintained schools between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2022, and £4.5 billion between 2010 and 2017.

Labour’s research found that academies and academy trusts spent £1.75 billion on fees between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2021.

The news comes as the party unveils plans as part of its mission to break down barriers to opportunity to get a grip on the recruitment and retention crisis in England’s classrooms, which is seeing teachers in key subjects leave the profession in droves and too few new recruits replace them.

The party intends to “re-establish teaching as a profession that is respected and valued as a skilled job which delivers for our country” by bringing in Qualified Teacher Status for new recruits alongside of reform of the way teachers and school access incentive payments to keep teachers in post.

Labour accused the Conservatives of creating the “perfect storm” in the teaching profession, with recruitment to teacher training  down by a third so far this year andmore than one in three teachers who qualified in the last 11 years have since left the profession.

According to official data from the Department for Education, there were 43,997 leavers in the teaching profession in 2021/22 (latest data), compared with only 36,159 starters on Initial Teacher Training, leaving a shortfall of 7,838.

School leaders have reported that insufficient quantity and quality of available applicants for teacher vacancies was a key recruitment challenge, and pose a threat to children’s education.  

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“We will only drive high a rising standards in our classrooms if we get a grip on the perfect storm in our teaching profession, which is seeing an exodus of experienced teachers and costing taxpayers over the odds to fill vacancies.

“Only Labour has the vision to re-establish teaching as a profession that is respected and valued as a skilled job which delivers for our country.

“A good retention plan is the best recruitment plan: that is why Labour’s measures to keep teachers in our classrooms will deliver world-class teachers in every classroom and reduce the costly payments to recruitment agencies clobbering taxpayers.”

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Schools are in the middle of a recruitment and retention crisis, so it is right that Labour should make this a high priority.

“The ambition for every class to be taught by a qualified teacher is also welcome – every parent should be able to expect that their child is taught by someone with the requisite expertise.

“Plans to improve early career training and ongoing professional development are sensible but Labour will need to be prepared to go further if they are to begin to solve the current crisis.

“We know that issues such as uncompetitive pay and a punitive inspection system are key factors in pushing people out of the profession, and it is only by tackling these that we will see teaching and school leadership become an attractive proposition once again.”

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