In a Commons session of oral questions on the issue of the recruitment and retention of teachers, Reading East MP Matt Rodda questioned the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP out of concern for the predicted strain on teacher recruitment in his constituency.
Reading is a town with high living costs; this has been pointed out by Matt on a number of occasions in previous debates - most recently in the issue of the public sector pay cap earlier in December. A shortage of social housing, a lack of affordable homes and escalating rents in the private sector make Reading an expensive area in which to live and work. Salaries for teachers in Reading do not attract a London-weighting allowance as is commonplace in neighbouring towns such as Bracknell, and this places teachers under a substantial financial burden to be able to live and work in Reading, thereby impacting on schools' abilities to retain staff.
He asked the following of the Secretary of State for Education:
“What recent assessment she has made of trends in teacher recruitment and retention?”
Her response was that there had been an increase in the number of teachers returning to the profession, an “8% improvement on the 2011 figure”. She added:
“However, we are absolutely not complacent; we continue to invest in teacher recruitment and are actively addressing the issues that teachers cite as a reason for leaving the profession”.
The MP for Reading East gave a supplemental question asking:
“I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but I draw her attention to the situation in my constituency and the evidence from the School Teachers’ Review Body, which has stated that there is
'a real risk that schools will not be able to recruit and retain a workforce of high quality teachers to support pupil achievement.'
It says that is particularly the case given the predicted increase in pupil numbers. What action have the Government taken to address teacher recruitment and retention? Will she meet me and local heads to discuss this matter?”
Ms Greening replied, citing that retention rates for teach staff have been 'broadly stable' over a 20-year period. She added:
“The proportion of people entering teaching with a degree or a higher qualification is now 98.5%, which represents a 4.3% increase since 2010. Indeed, 19% of this year’s cohort of trainees have first-class degrees, which is a higher proportion than in any of the past five years.”
Rounding off the oral questions, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner MP, who has in recent months visited Reading and witnessed first-hand the extent to which cuts in education have affected the constituency said:
“Given what the Secretary of State just said about our excellent teachers, I hope that we can all agree that it is time to end the real-terms pay cuts for teachers. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that this will lead to schools squeezing non-pay spending and reducing the workforce without extra funding. The Chancellor wants us to believe that he has ended the public sector pay cap. The Secretary of State wants us to believe that she has ended cuts to schools. They cannot both be right, so which one of them is putting the “con” into the Conservatives? “