The impact of COVID-19 on teacher recruitment

  • Recruitment of teachers by schools in England is highly seasonal, usually peaking in March-May. However, this year's recruiting season has been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures. Recruiting activity at English secondary schools, as measured by posts advertised on their websites, fell suddenly in mid-March and is currently down by about 50-60% compared to the same period last year.
  • There have been particularly large reductions in the core subjects of maths, science and English, but substantial falls have been seen in all subject areas. By 3rd April, just over two weeks after the announcement of school closures, these year-on-year variances amounted to about 2,000 fewer teacher vacancy advertisements than would be expected if activity had remained normal for this time of year. At the time of writing, this deficit was continuing to grow.
  • A survey of teachers conducted at the end of March indicated that many of those who had previously been considering changing job have since reconsidered. It therefore seems likely that teacher turnover this year will be lower than usual, reducing the number of vacancies that schools have to fill.
  • However, most schools still need to recruit. A survey of school leaders showed that many of them – especially those in secondary schools – have delayed their recruitment activities as a result of the pandemic. This is often because they are trying to work out how to interview and select teachers while schools are closed and social-distancing measures in effect.
  • These results are also described in an accompanying joint paper by the Gatsby Foundation, Teacher Tapp and SchoolDash: 'Vacancies and Viruses: Teacher Recruitment in the Time of a Pandemic'.

Figure 1: Numbers of secondary-school teacher recruitment advertisements in England
Notes: Dates on the horizontal axis are for the 2018-2019 academic year. Values for 2017-2018 are those corresponding to periods exactly 52 weeks (364 days) earlier; this aligns days of the week at the expense of a one-day mismatch in dates. Easter Sunday fell on 1st April 2018 and 21st April 2019.
Sources: Secondary school, sixth-form college and FE college websites; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Year-on-year change in number of secondary-school teacher recruitment advertisements in England
Sources: Secondary school, sixth-form college and FE college websites; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Year-on-year change in advertisements by subject
Notes: 'Expressive Arts' include Art, Drama and Music. 'Technology' includes Design & Technology and Computing. 'Humanities and Social Sciences' include Geography, History, Economics, Sociology and Religious Studies. 'Other' subjects include Physical Education, Business and Media.
Sources: School websites; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Year-on-year change advertisements by school type
Notes: School deprivation figures based on pupils' eligibility for free school meals, with bands defined by the DfE. Local deprivation figures based on the mean IDACI of postcodes within a 4km radius of each school, with schools then divided into three roughly equally sized groups. Small schools have fewer than 700 pupils, large ones have more than 1,200. A small proportion of low attainers means less than 12% and a high proportion means more than 18%. Urban, suburban and rural groups use ONS rural-urban categories applied to school postcodes.
Sources: School websites; Department for Education; Office for National Statistics; Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; SchoolDash analysis.
These proportions are very consistent across phases and sectors. Even the differences by Ofsted rating and region are relatively modest. When viewed by seniority, middle and senior leaders (excluding headteachers) are the most likely to have been considering a move, but also the most likely to now be undecided.

Figure 5: Teachers' short-term career plans (March 2020)
Sources: Teacher Tapp survey conducted 30th March 2020.
Sample size: 6,874 respondents.
Figure 6: School recruitment plans (March 2020)
Note: Respondents were free to select more than one answer, so percentages sum to more than 100.
Sources: Teacher Tapp survey conducted 30th March 2020.
Sample size: 1,780 respondents.
  1. This process does not capture all vacant positions because: (a) not all positions are advertised on school websites, (b) even when they are, they are not necessarily presented in a way that can be automatically indexed, and (c) websites are sometimes unresponsive or otherwise unavailable. For this reason, the data presented should be thought of as being based not on a comprehensive list of all vacancies but on a subset. However, positions have been detected for well over 90% of schools and these are broadly representative of the overall population of schools.
  2. The question read: "Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your short-term career plans?" The (mutually exclusive) options were: "No - I was not planning to leave my current position this year"; "No - I have always planned to leave my current position this year (or at least seek a job elsewhere)"; "Yes - I was planning to move jobs this year, but have now decided not to"; "Yes - I was planning to move jobs this year, but now I am undecided"; "Yes - I was not planning to move jobs, but now I may (or I will)"; and "Not relevant / cannot answer".
  3. The question read: "Have your school's teacher recruitment plans for this season (i.e. September start) been disrupted by COVID-19? (You may tick more than one response)" The options were: "No - We have no teacher vacancies and so are not planning to recruit immediately"; "No - We have recruitment plans for September that HAVE NOT been disrupted"; "Yes - They are disrupted due to lack of spare management time at present" "Yes - They are disrupted while we decide how to conduct remote interviews/recruitment" "Yes - They are disrupted because we don't believe many teachers will be looking at present"; "Yes - They are disrupted because we are unclear about our recruitment needs"; "Yes - They are disrupted because we have pupil numbers/funding uncertainty at present"; "Yes - They are disrupted for another reason"; "I don't know"; and "Not relevant / cannot answer". The last two options have been combined in the results presented here.

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