‘Expert’ teacher sweeteners needed to tackle ‘growing’ FE recruitment crisis, report says

Study calls on government to bolster incentives for employers to release staff to teach in FE too

Study calls on government to bolster incentives for employers to release staff to teach in FE too

Incentives such as tax breaks for employers and paying teachers in skills shortage areas more should be introduced to address the “growing” teacher recruitment and retention crisis in further education (FE), a new report has said.

Research published today has also indicated that golden hellos of between £3,000 and £7,000 have been used by FE colleges to help get new teachers on board in certain subjects as they continue to struggle to offer competitive salaries compared to industry.

The Lifelong Education Commission and Chartered Institution for Further Education (CIFE) have penned the study, called ‘developing industry expert teaching for higher skills’, in which they call on the government to do more to address the FE teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

It says that “dual professionals” – those with up-to-date industry experience who can also spend some time teaching – should be developed to help combat the problem.

It highlighted latest government data that indicated average FE teacher wages were around £10,000 lower than school teachers, with universities able to pay even more, all while many technical and vocational lecturers can earn more in their industry. The document suggested that staffing in FE may have fallen by a third in the last 10 years, and said that college vacancy rate was at around eight or nine per cent – double what it was prior to the pandemic.

The report has called on the government to up the pay of FE teachers in skills shortage areas.

Report author Andy Forbes from the Lifelong Education Commission told FE Week this recommendation was “deliberately a bit vague” but envisaged a similar model to that used by academy trusts which have the ability to pay extra to teachers with additional responsibilities.

Forbes suggested something that was not an overall change to the pay structure but “something that will enable that pay structure to be supplemented,” such as an “expert teacher supplement”.

Elsewhere, the report calls on tax breaks or other such incentives to help employers release their staff for a day or two a week to teach in FE.

“At the moment I cannot see any incentive for the employer to do that,” Forbes explained. “It’s about the government incentivising employers to say if you release someone for a day a week we will subsidise for the loss of that person’s time. So much is being asked of employers – T Level placements, apprenticeships, it’s only fair national government should consider incentives for employers to release people which would be mutually beneficial for the employer and the receiving institution.”

According to the report, CIFE is already developing a scheme where industry experts in the latter stages of their career will be targeted with a “remuneration and training package to support a phased transition from full-time employment to a mixture of employment in industry combined with teaching”.

That scheme aims to use large employers’ corporate social responsibility budgets to fund the release of staff members into local colleges.

In addition, the research reported that “all CIFE colleges interviewed use pay supplements of around £3,000 to £7,000 per year – variously described as ‘market supplements’, ‘scarcity allowances’ or ‘golden hellos’ – to attract staff in shortage areas”.

Forbes said the use of golden hellos was “very mixed at the moment because there isn’t anything on a national scale and people have needed to improvise to look at what they think is effective”.

He explained that some colleges had formal policies that indicated they will pay a defined pay supplement if they have failed to recruit after two attempts, while others have used them much more loosely on a case-by-case basis.

“In practise, the majority of colleges have used variations of the golden handshake, or market supplements, but there are numerous variations in how small, how strict and how consistently it’s used. Local labour markets tend to vary quite considerably – it’s very much about what people think is necessary to winkle out somebody good at the right level,” he added.

Other recommendations in the report called on the government to “move away from piecemeal initiatives” and develop instead “a more integrated strategy”. It found that while efforts like the Teach in FE and Taking Teaching Further campaigns and a professional development grants pilot have been welcome, no publicly available evaluation of those programmes meant it was hard to see if they were working.

It has urged the government to speed up its evaluation of those campaigns to enable those delivering the most promising results to be quickly identified.

The report also called on the government to strengthen its collection of FE workforce data, explaining that it needs to be “detailed enough to facilitate analysis of the proportion and range of industry-expert teachers,” that will help aid recruitment planning.

Robert Halfon, minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education said there has “never been a better time” to consider teaching in further education with the range of routes including apprenticeships, skills bootcamps and T Levels.

He added: “Industry professionals know better than most the skills that employers need, and we recognise we need more people with this industry expertise to share their knowledge and skills and extend the ladder of opportunity to people from all walks of life.

“That is why we’ve launched our Teach in Further Education recruitment campaign, empowering people to use the skills they’ve gained in their careers to inspire and train up the next generation of workers whilst expanding their own skill set, and we are providing bursaries worth up to £26,000 each tax-free in priority subject areas for 2022/23 to support FE teacher training.”

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  1. Or perhaps they could pay us properly for what we do, thus allowing us to compete on wages with industry?

    Apprenticeship funding has not increased since May 2017 (and to be fair, some of it actually decreased then) which is coming up for 6 years ago now.

    Since then overall inflation in that time has been 22.5% (Bank of England CPI inflation rate) and many materials have doubled in price.

    So as you can see, if Apprenticeship payments kept up with inflation then all would be well.

  2. ‘Dual Professionals’ – Looks like another distraction tactic from sector leaders as they have been so ineffectual at securing decent funding for the sector for over a decade.

    Bottom line is that participation and hours have been falling, therefore fewer teaching staff are required and pay and conditions have been eroded.

    The most useful data of all would be the proportion of teaching staff FTE and salary of the overall staff spend, across the last years. My guess would be that a couple of rounds of funding simplification and lots of management development initiatives means there is now a much smaller proportion of funding reaching actual frontline delivery.