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London Callings

By Jack Worth and Louis Coiffait

Although the proportions of teachers joining and leaving the profession in London is largely balanced, as in the rest of the country, both occur at higher levels in the capital. New NFER analysis finds that, relative to the rest of England, London faces the greatest challenges retaining its school teachers and leaders. A higher share of working-age staff are leaving to teach elsewhere in England or in other London education jobs, or are becoming unemployed.

Recruitment and retention tops the agenda

The teaching workforce is the biggest issue currently facing the education system according to sources as diverse as ATL, Teaching Leaders, Surrey Headteachers and the National Audit Office. The issue is particularly worrying given the rise in new school places that will be needed as pupil numbers increase.

Last November, NFER published ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ an analysis of teaching staff (including school leaders and all education phases) joining and leaving the profession in England, including where they go. The analysis was based on Labour Force Survey (LFS) data for 2001–14 and attracted attention, including from the Education Select Committee. In September of this year, the DfE published regional school workforce data for 2010–15 and NFER published follow-up research on retention: Engaging Teachers.

As NFER is providing evidence to the GLA, we looked at what these three sources together might tell us about teachers in one region, London. There is only a sample of 75 London teachers in the LFS who left the profession in that time, so results should be treated as indicative only.

Understanding London’s teacher workforce

The DfE data shows that London schools are relatively well staffed, with some of the lowest pupil-teacher ratios, especially in primary schools, which saw the biggest fall nationwide from 2010 to 2015. It also shows there are more than twice as many unqualified teachers in London primary schools (seven per cent) than England (three per cent) as a whole, and eight per cent versus six per cent in secondaries.

Our earlier research already highlighted the overall rate of teachers leaving the profession (ten per cent), but inner London has the highest rate (over 12 per cent). Combined with London having the smallest proportion of teachers retiring, this finding means more working-age teachers are leaving. Although our follow-up research on retention had no region-specific analysis, it did find some worrying national trends, with a recent increase in teachers considering leaving (from 17 to 23 per cent).

Recruitment is also a challenge for London, especially for primaries, where there are more than twice as many schools with vacancies or temporary staff (15 per cent) compared to England (seven per cent). However, more teachers join the profession in London (14 per cent) than the rest of the country (11 per cent), a smaller proportion of whom are former teachers returning. London is also a net exporter of teachers to the rest of the country, with  ten per cent of London teachers leaving the capital for other schools and eight per cent coming in to London.

This finding suggests London is particularly attractive to new teachers but that many then drift away to teach elsewhere, or away from teaching all together. The Chief Executive of the Ark Academy chain described this in her evidence to the GLA: “We find that we are getting the young teachers who are prepared to come and live like sardines in flat shares and tiny spaces. We can keep those, and they come drawn by the magnet that is London. Our problem is retention”.

The GLA’s ‘Getting Ahead’ programme develops new school leaders and is poised to start its second year. Our research found that nationwide, school leaders are less likely to consider leaving, whereas experienced male teachers are more likely to leave. It also explored the factors that help to retain staff – such as engagement.


We looked at the LFS, to see what London teachers who leave do next. We found that those who left teaching (excluding retirees) were ten percentage points more likely to get a job in the wider London education sector compared to the rest of England, in particular in non-teaching roles, at private schools and as teaching assistants.

By contrast, a smaller proportion took jobs outside education, which is surprising given such a large, lucrative and diverse job market. Although similar proportions of leavers became economically inactive overall, London teachers were more than three times as likely to be unemployed, at 19 per cent versus six per cent nationally.


At the other end of the teacher career journey, we found that new joiners in London (excluding students) were more likely to come from outside education. Again, a similar proportion were economically inactive, but more than twice as many were previously unemployed (14 per cent vs six per cent). This might suggest unemployment is higher in the capital, yet it is currently 1.5 per cent below the national average. This requires further research over the periods in question.

If they leave, teachers work fewer hours but get paid less

When trying to understand why teachers leave, it seems to be about reducing the hours they work rather than getting more money. On average, teachers reduced their hours by 13 per cent compared to those who stayed in the profession. We found a ten per cent drop in wages overall for teachers leaving the profession both in London and the nation, even when accounting for characteristics such as salary, responsibilities, education phase and age.

So what does this initial analysis tell us about the London workforce? That the London workforce has unique features, that the flow of staff joining and leaving the profession in the capital  is higher, that London exports staff elsewhere, and that the leavers who do stay in town tend to stay within the sector. It also highlights some potential risks, with lower retention in London and more leavers becoming unemployed. It’s clear that if London schools are to continue to be international success story, they have to both attract and to retain the staff they need.

First published on the NFER blog November 17 2016


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2017’s education movers and shakers

2017 is already shaping up to be just as eventful as 2016, here’s a list of ten key people in education that are going to be making big decisions, influencing opinion and delivering on some big changes.

It’s clear that since Theresa May took the reins in July her premiership will be defined by one thing, working out the details of what ‘the B word’ will actually mean for the UK. In education her commitment to making ‘Britain a country that works for everyone … not just the privileged few’ seems to translate into one thing – more grammar schools. With £200m already earmarked for their expansion in the last ever Autumn Statement, it’s also clear that the Government seems unlikely to heed any evidence from all those that responded to the consultation, that selective schools might not be the best way to achieve social mobility in a context of -8% real term cuts to school budgets. We can expect a new White Paper and ongoing controversy by the summer.

The SoS Justine Greening will be responsible for driving through the expansion of grammars, but she also has some promising ideas of her own, looking at defining families that are ‘just about managing’, going beyond the increasingly creaky FSM proxy for poverty, and identifying the ‘opportunity areas’ that need focused support. The other big issues on her plate include school budgets, with ongoing concerns about scrutiny of academies and the second stage of the national funding formula consultation – closing 22 March. High needs, early years and special schools are three areas that will need particular attention. With FE and HE back in DfE we can also expect further changes in apprenticeships, area reviews and the next REF. The consultation on the latter (closing 17 March) is likely to result in new approaches to both open access research and impact. Careers is likely to receive ongoing attention too, with mounting criticisms of the current approach and hints at a greater focus on vocational and technical routes. The school workforce will remain another priority for Greening, with an ageing workforce, missed recruitment targets and planned programmes not delivering. It may not have been her policy, but you can also expect the SoS to have to deal with some strong reactions in September when the new 9-1 grades replace A*-G in Maths and English GCSEs, with ‘interim’ 8.5-1 grades for other subjects. For me the white elephant in the room is a long overdue wholesale reassessment of school admissions, though I doubt it will be high on the busy 2017 agenda, beyond some selection-focused quick-fixes.

In opposition Angela Rayner and her predecessor Lucy Powell are likely to continue to be a vocal double-act in opposition to the Government’s plans, especially on grammar schools.

Natalie Perera seems to be gearing up to be the de-facto Liberal Democrat education spokesperson (sorry John Pugh MP), with the power of EPI behind her and many years of experience in the DfE, it’s safe to say she and the team will continue to be vocal scrutinisers of Government plans.

At Ofsted we can expect a new, more conciliatory tone from Amanda Spielman and her new team, who will be looking at the impact of inspections on staff. Hopefully this will help teachers to prioritise and so address workload issues such as marking (an area where EEF and NCTL are working to improve the evidence base about good practice). The wellbeing and mental health of both children and staff are likely to be priorities for Ofsted in 2017, with a Select Committee inquiry underway in this area.

In January Dame Alison Peacock will officially start as CEO of the emerging Chartered College of Teaching. Tasked with making education evidence more relevant and practical to busy staff, she is likely to help look at the issue of marking too. Hopes are high for the College but it will take time to build momentum across the profession. Watch out for Founding Membership on 18 Jan.

At the helm of SchoolsWeek we can also expect Laura MacInerney to be a powerful voice for ‘the fourth estate’. Her team’s data and FOI–driven investigations are likely to keep the Government on its toes, especially around free schools, academies and grammar schools.

At Education Datalab, Dr Becky Allen and team have made a huge impact in their first year, combining academic rigour with a slick press operation. We predict some particularly powerful infographics and stats on 19th January when the annual performance and results datasets are published.

Last but by no means least; Professor Becky Francis is likely to help lead the considerable weight of the UCL IoE to spar in the policy ring more than ever, bringing a pragmatic and values-driven approach.

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ICYMI: 2016 in brief

It’s been another busy year in education, before everybody switches off for the holiday season and starts thinking about 2017, I thought it was worth a quick recap of the key events that happened in education over the past year…


  1. Overall education spending drops as a proportion of GDP from 5.3% in 2011-12 to 4.4% in 2015-16
  2. Education Select Committee publishes report on Regional School Commissioners


  1. Select Committee launches an inquiry into apprenticeships
  2. £4.3m Troops to Teachers scheme delivers … 28 new teachers
  3. Prof. Becky Francis appointed as next Director of UCL Institute of Education (IoE), taking over from Professor Chris Husbands in July


  1. George Osborne and Nicky Morgan announce all schools would become academies, then quickly rowed back, with the final death knell for the plans coming in October
  2. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)


  1. DfE announces that the three remaining ‘approved’ baseline assessments will no longer be an accountability measure, due to lack of comparability
  2. KS1 SAT spelling and grammar test stopped at short notice


  1. Queen’s speech includes new statutory duty for schools to promote the National Citizen Service
  2. Eight new deputy directors appointed to lead RSC offices


  1. Despite poll predictions, 52% of the UK voted for #BrExit, it’s still not quite clear what this means
  2. Centre Forum is reincarnated as the Education Policy Institute (EPI) – with a deep war chest, a crack team and a sceptical take on Government policy
  3. Education charities Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust announce they will merge, becoming Ambition School Leadership in November


  1. After an aborted leadership election David Cameron steps down and Theresa May walks into Number 10, replacing Nicky Morgan with Justine Greening as SoS for education
  2. National Governors’ Association (NGA), The Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) and NFER publish research on Executive Headteachers
  3. Amanda Spielman the Chair of Ofqual is confirmed as the next Ofsted Chief Inspector, taking over from Sir Michael Wilshaw in January 2017
  4. Another critical Select Committee inquiry on careers, expect the much anticipated ‘careers strategy’ before summer 2017…


  1. Dame Alison Peacock of the Wroxham School announced as new CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, starting in January 2017
  2. Early years foundation stage profile reinstated as statutory


  1. Theresa May’s joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy credited with masterminding the rather controversial (grammar) Schools that work for everyone ‘consultation’
  2. NFER publish a follow-up report on teacher retention
  3. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘primary assessment’


  1. On Halloween the Select Committee launches an inquiry into selective education


  1. A familiar feeling as the nation wakes up to another unexpected result, Trump for President.
  2. £200m earmarked for grammar schools in the last ever Autumn Statement
  3. NFER published ‘a tale of eight regions’, a follow up report about RSCs
  4. Two ASCL leadership candidates are announced, Chris Kirk and Geoff Barton, with members ‘going to the polls’ in January, and results out 10 February 2017
  5. Social Mobility Commission (SMC) publishes annual State of the Nation report
  6. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘Children and young people’s mental health’
  7. Five Select Committees lobby the SoS for statutory PSHE education, some for a second time
  8. Select Committee writes to the DfE with concerns about the transparency and accountability of academy finances
  9. TIMSS and PISA report within a week of each other. NFER publish 20 years of TIMSS in England, TIMSS 2015 in Northern Ireland (full results and key insights), PISA 2015 in Scotland, PISA 2015 for all four UK nations


  1. NAO publish report showing a £3bn hole in school finances, with 8% real term cuts and 60.6% of secondary academies in the red
  2. ‘Schools national funding formula – stage 2’ consultation launches, deadline 22 March 2017
  3. NFER publish research on the maths performance of disadvantaged students in England
  4. Primary schools achieve strong KS2 SATs results, despite assessment changes
  5. The National Teaching Service is scrapped
  6. The higher education REF consultation opens

Download a two-page Word version (with clickable URLs) here

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