The School Census Results and the Ongoing Challenge of Recruiting Supply Teachers

Supply Teachers

According to the 2019 School census results which were published in July, the number of pupils in UK schools has increased across the board, though it’s risen faster in secondary schools than in primary. The number of pupils in secondary schools is expected to increase further in the coming years.

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This increase in pupil numbers outstrips the small rise in overall teacher numbers shown in the 2018 workforce census, and that rise was driven by primary teachers; secondary schools now have fewer working teachers than last year, continuing the trend from 2017.

What does this mean for our education system?

We’re so used to reading about falling teacher numbers that it’s tempting to view even this small increase as a reversal of that trend, and these results are obviously better for schools than another drop. However, this is overshadowed by the larger increase in pupil numbers, and the fact that the number of secondary teachers continues to fall.

Relative to the number of pupils, teacher numbers are still falling, meaning greater demand is being met by fewer staff.

Falling retention rates

Teacher retention rates have also fallen, with only 84.7% of teachers who qualified in 2017 still in service a year later. The five-year retention rate has also dropped, with just 67.7% of teachers who qualified in 2013 still teaching at the time of the 2018 workforce census.

Workload and workplace stress are among the most popular reasons teachers give for leaving the profession, and these issues are unlikely to improve as teacher numbers fall. Unless the trend can be reversed, further reductions in retention rates are expected.

How does this affect the recruitment of supply teachers?

Supply teachers already play a vital role in our education system, providing a flexible solution to staffing issues as they arise in schools, and as the number of teachers continues to fall relative to pupil numbers, demand for supply teachers will inevitably increase.

As demand increases, recruiting and retaining the high-quality supply teachers required to meet that demand will become even more challenging than it is now.

How can supply teaching agencies respond to this challenge?

The result of all this is that your supply teachers are likely to find themselves very much in demand, which is brilliant for you as a recruiter, provided you can attract and retain the right supply teachers. Your teachers are also more likely to find themselves doing their naturally demanding job in an environment that contains additional pressures, which makes it even more important to look after them and make sure they have the support they need.

Retention of supply teachers

Our experience of working with supply teachers over many years has taught us that retention is much easier where teachers feel like they’re valued and treated well. This is why we put so much effort into the basics, making sure they get the right advice and that their pay is always correct and on time. It’s also why we offer additional benefits and services, helping their money go further, improving their health and wellbeing, and ensuring they have the support they need to maintain their physical and mental health.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way please contact our expert team on 01296 468 483 or email  

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