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  • Conservative government has missed teacher recruitment target for nine of the last 10 years
  • NEW POLL shows that nearly two-fifths of education staff have already taken steps to leave their profession to get a job in another field, or are actively considering it
  • “Recruitment and retention crisis” has been fuelled by years of falling pay and soaring workloads, says TUC

Teacher vacancies have increased in nearly nine in 10 (86%) English local authorities since 2010, according to new TUC analysis published today (Friday).

The analysis of official data shows that just 1 in 14 local authorities (7%) have seen an improvement in teacher vacancy rates.

The growth in vacancies coincides with England having one of the worst pupil-to-teacher ratios in the OECD.

According to the latest Department for Education data there were 2,100 teacher vacancies across England in November 2023 – compared to just 355 in November 2010.

The South East and East of England are the worst affected regions, with all of their local authorities reporting increases in teacher vacancies since 2010.

Missed targets

Department for Education figures show that ministers have consistently missed their teacher recruitment targets.

In nine out of the last 10 years the Conservative government has failed to recruit its target number of teachers. And in some subjects, ministers have massively under-recruited.

In 2023 alone:

  • Ministers missed their target for physics teachers by 83% – recruiting just 17% of their target number
  • Ministers missed their target for total science teachers by over a half (56%) - recruiting just 44% of their target number
  • Ministers missed their target for maths teachers by over a third (37%) - recruiting just 63% of their target

The only subjects where the government has met, or exceeded, its teacher recruitment targets are history and physical education.

Retention crisis

The TUC warns that the recruitment crisis in English schools is being exacerbated by huge rates of staff turnover.

A third of newly qualified teachers are leaving the profession during the first five years. And many experienced staff are also quitting.

New TUC polling shows that two-fifths of education workers (38%) have already taken steps to leave their profession to get a job in another field, or are actively considering it.

As a result of recruitment and retention failures, pupil-to-qualified teacher ratios have increased since 2010. For schools overall, the ratio has risen from 17.6 to 18.5. And in secondary schools, the ratio has risen from 15.4 to 17.2.

Pay cuts and workloads

The TUC says that the recruitment and retention crisis has been worsened by excessive workloads and multiple years of real-terms pay cuts.

TUC analysis for this release shows that the value of teachers pay has been cut by £172 per week (18%) between 2010 and 2023.

And TUC analysis for Work Your Proper Hours Day (23 February 2024) found that teachers are more likely to do regular unpaid overtime than any other profession.

40% of teachers do unpaid overtime on a regular basis, compared to 13% of workers across the economy.

The average amount of unpaid overtime by teachers is 11 hours per week, which adds up to 5.5 million hours of unpaid overtime by teachers every week.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“Every child deserves a good education. But the Conservatives have left us with crumbling classrooms and a crisis in recruiting and retaining the teachers we need.

“Everyone can see the huge pressures on schools. After years of deep pay cuts and soaring workloads, teachers are being driven out of the profession.

“We can’t go on like this. We need a government that will treat teachers well and invest more in our schools so that every child can flourish.”

NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman said:

“The government has failed to hit its recruitment targets – and this is damaging our children’s education.

“Teachers and leaders are managing alarming gaps in every part of education. This is fuelled by a collapse in graduates going into teacher training, more recently qualified teachers quitting, and experienced teachers preferring to leave the profession rather than take on the responsibility of the leadership. 

"To attract and retain top talent, teaching must become a competitive profession with better pay, improved conditions, and reduced workload. Our children's education depends on it.”

NEU General Secretary Daniel Kebede said:

"This is the true legacy of 14 years in power – a profession decimated by high workload and persistent real terms pay cuts, and a government with no answers.

"Teachers now top the polls for unpaid overtime hours. This is not a badge of pride. Gillian Keegan must accept that the reasons why staff are so stretched, and given to finding work elsewhere, is precisely because of the disregard this government has for education.

“The Autumn Statement and Spring Budget were golden opportunities to change their approach to education. It speaks volumes that no funding was forthcoming to fix a recruitment and retention crisis of their own making.”

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said:

“This government has allowed the teaching profession to be driven into the ground and they have now run out of time to fix the problems they created.

“Change can only come from a new government that is committed to delivering a new deal for teachers and for children’s education.

“We need a government that is committed to working urgently to deliver a national workforce plan which will restore morale and raise the status of the profession.”

Editors note

- Change in teacher vacancy rates by region/England: The TUC analysis uses data from the government’s survey of the 'School workforce in England':

The TUC compared local authority level data in 2010 and 2023 to derive the number of local authorities in England and English regions that have a higher vacancy rate than in 2010. The government collects this data in November.


Total number of local authorities

Number with higher vacancy rate than in 2010

% with a higher vacancy rate

North East




North West




Yorkshire & Humber




East Midlands




West Midlands




East of England




South East




South West













- Percentage of initial teacher training recruitment target reached, by subject in 2023. Data is taken from the official Initial Teacher Training (ITT) census statistics:























Art & Design




Total Science














Business Studies



- Teacher vacancies and teacher shortages: The growth in teacher vacancies indicates that schools are in a worse situation for teacher shortages now than in 2010. However, the figure of 2,100 teacher vacancies across England in November 2023 should not be used as a proxy for ‘teacher shortages’ as schools may be too financially constrained to advertise vacancies and recruit to all the posts where they have shortages.

- Growth in FTE teachers in England: Although the full-time equivalent number of teachers has risen slightly since 2010, the number of pupils has risen much more – a change that was long anticipated, but not adequately prepared for.

- Fall in value of teachers pay since 2010: The calculation of the real terms pay cut for teachers uses pay data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2010 and 2023. It is based on CPI inflation and is in 2023 prices. If RPI inflation is used instead, the real terms pay cut is much greater at £306 per week.

- International comparison: International comparative data on teacher to student ratios is collected by the OECD (up to 2020) and can be accessed here: Of the 36 countries measured by the OECD only Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Colombia have a higher ratio in secondary schools.

- Polling of education workers: Opinium polled 2,035 public sector workers between 29 February and 4 March 2024. The poll was weighted according to gender, age, sector and region. This sample included a subset of 428 workers in schools, colleges and universities. 38% of this subset answered a question on their current working situation by choosing statements to say that they are either ‘taking steps to…’, or ‘actively considering leaving my profession to get a job in a different field or profession’.

- Teacher retention data: The figures given above on qualified teachers leaving the profession are from School workforce in England and the statistics picked out from that dataset by the Education Policy Institute.

- Unpaid overtime: For the full data on unpaid overtime, see the TUC press release for Work your Proper Hours Day:

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