Does an OfSTED Grading Impact on Teacher Recruitment?

Reading time: 4


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

How bleak really is teacher recruitment and retention?

Post publication: for impartiality, I’ve added this conversation thread here to provide context on behalf of OfSTED.

For the third consecutive year, school leaders report that there is no improvement in teacher supply.  A survey by NAHT shows that there is no improvement in the struggle to recruit … Decisive action is needed to deal with the on-going recruitment crisis, by making teaching a more attractive profession to join, and to stay in.

NAHT’s third annual recruitment survey – and not the government’s data – demonstrates the experiences of school leaders’ struggle to recruit teachers and senior leaders. I’ve been lucky enough to receive the research and I’m sharing some of the standout issues and have posed some of my own questions at the end of the post.

The picture is very bleak.

Please take a moment to read the key findings and then look through the dataset. In the foot of this post, you will find a few questions and solutions from me.

Key Findings:

  • For the third year in a row school leaders report a continuing problem with recruitment across all roles.
  • Overall a very high proportion (79%) of posts were difficult to recruit to and respondents were unable to recruit at all to an average of 17% of posts.
  • As we found in 2015, where schools were not able to recruit at all this was most commonly the case in relation to a position for more experienced staff including:
    • Teacher on the upper pay scale (30%)
    • Teaching roles with a teaching and learning responsibility payment (24%).
    • Teaching roles with a special educational needs (SEN) allowance (20%)
  • Members also responded on the struggle to recruit to school leadership roles: with schools that had vacancies struggling to recruit head teachers/principals in 69% of cases, deputy head/vice principal in 59% of cases and assistant heads in 58% of cases.

For the first time this year, the survey asked NAHT members to provide their OfSTED rating (table below) so that we could compare recruitment experiences across schools with different ratings. This indicates that schools with ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate ‘judgements have a consistently greater struggle to recruit, despite their need to recruit good teachers to fill vacancies and drive school improvement.

Just look at how OfSTED judgements impact on recruitment for individual schools – with Requires Improvement and Inadequate:

NAHT recruitment and retention survey 2016

Issues beyond school:

  • Nationally, there has also been a large increase in the number of school leaders citing high housing and living costs.
  • In London 60% respondents said their recruitment difficulties were attributable to high housing and living costs.
  • A deeply worrying aspect was that the number of respondents who highlighted that budget pressures were to blame for their failure to recruit.
  • Respondents are saying that the school funding crisis is preventing them from paying salaries that will attract or retain.
  • A breakdown of the data again underlines that this is a nationwide problem, with some regional variations.

NAHT recruitment and retention survey 2016

For the third year respondents reported in increasing numbers that recruitment difficulties were due to the number of teachers leaving the profession in their area. This continues to be the third highest reason cited as being behind their recruitment problems. This reflects other report findings, which suggest similar trends, including the DfE’s own data.

  • There has been an increase in those reporting a difficulty with recruiting NQTs, increasing to 64% this year.
  • The two most common reasons given for difficulty in recruiting NQTs is shortage and quality.
  • Across all roles, for those that failed to recruit, supply agencies were the most common solution pursued in 70% of cases of unfilled roles, with significant cost implications.
  • Nearly half of schools reported using recruitment agencies to recruit their permanent roles (44%)

Having mapped over 20 London-based supply agencies and their fees, the quality of applications is very poor – with weak applications and/or increasing numbers of overseas trained teachers – the supply market is beginning to dominate and determine the demands of the profession. In my opinion, now that Michael Gove’s performance related pay policy enables schools to determine their own pay structures, teachers may be held back on a specific pay scale to help manage dwindling budgets. Supply agencies can take advantage of this, often quoting extortionate 20% buy-out fees to place staff permanently into schools; they have the financial stronghold.


Here is the data from the NAHT survey 2016:

  1. Figure 1: Recruitment experience across all roles, in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  2. Table 2: Recruitment experience across all roles in 2016.
  3. Figure 3: Respondents reporting failing to recruit to a role in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  4. Table 4: Respondents reporting struggling to recruit to a role in 2016, by last school inspection review.
  5. Image 5: Teachers on the main pay scale; excluding NQTs (recruitment difficulties).
  6. Image 6: Newly Qualified Teachers (recruitment difficulties).
  7. Image 7: Teaching role with TLR (recruitment difficulties).
  8. Image 8: Deputy head / vice principal (recruitment difficulties).
  9. Image 9: Teacher on the upper pay scale (recruitment difficulties).
  10. Image 10: Head teachers / Principals (recruitment difficulties).
  11. Image 11: Are NQTs prepared for working in schools?

Click to expand data.


So, I have a few questions to ask readers:

  1. Would the removal of OfSTED gradings help resolve teacher recruitment?
  2. What is OfSTED gradings were just: Good / Not Yet Good. Would this be better for all of us?
  3. If workload is to blame, how can the DfE put this under control to protect the longevity of the workforce?
  4. Is lower-quality applications fast-becoming the norm? I certainly see this in our recruitment process.
  5. How can we all manage supply agencies so they help the recruitment crisis?

A solution?

  1. Disable OfSTED from gradings that focus on ‘outcomes’.
  2. Remove OfSTED gradings and replace with a peer-reviewed evaluation form containing ‘good’ or ‘not yet good’.
  3. Change teacher contact-ratios so that teachers have time to mark and plan during the school day.
  4. Reform OfSTED so that schools conduct self-reviews and hold each other to account. This may improve retention.
  5. Fund schools so that budgets can secure qualified teachers.

A suggestion: if we END the culture of OfSTED, teacher recruitment, retention and teacher well-being will START to self-regulate itself. (@TeacherToolkit)

You can download the full NAHT report here.


9 thoughts on “Does an OfSTED Grading Impact on Teacher Recruitment?

  1. As an ofsted inspector I have always maintained that it is a corrupt system. The misuse of their criteria as a stick to beat staff compounded the problem. It did shake up complacency in the system, but in a simplistic inefficient way. Again, as mentioned on this site before, look to Finland. Academisation has distorted funding by increasing costs in administration. Private supply agencies as opposed to LEA pools have increased costs in supply. I believe flexibility in appointing part time staff or general staff to cover gaps would help. Take decisions out of the hands of fickle politicians (eg grammar schools). But better pay and conditions are the key.

  2. My son, despite all our protestations, has finally decided to enter the profession albeit admittedly partly because of the additional financial support he receives for entering as a scientist. He is one half term in and already bemoans the workload and extraordinary expectations – particularly planning and marking. We have explained the benefits of understanding the planning process and how it will become easier in time but the ridiculous level of detail (in planning) being asked of the cohort is already tempting some to throw in the towel. What is pleasing is his optimism – largely borne from the fabulous support he is receiving alongside excellent coaching within the host schools. However, the conversation around where he is likely to end up teaching is almost entirely focussed on international possibilities and pre-requisites rather than any serious motivation to secure anything long term in the UK.

    The recruitment crisis is a direct consequence of a system which is out of control, as you rightly say Ross, and is steadily worsening and exacerbated by Ofsted judgements, poor funding and loss of funding (supply agencies) and external accountability which we recognise as flawed. I agree with the focus of your solutions but have to more strongly agree with Ben – politicians have no idea about our vocation and are driven by conflicting ideologies which have no positive influence in improving the lot of our children.

    Another case for the College of Teaching?

  3. I totally agree with the five solutions put forward and am heartened by the comments from Ben Ball. We are developing the Growth Mindset approach in our school and are seeing the benefits of this already among the pupils. If this could be incorporated into our education system along with the solutions recommended and advice from Ben I believe we would raise the standards of teaching and learning. I passionately believe that teachers genuinely want to do the very best that they can for their pupils and this seems like the way forward.

  4. Personally, I think that Wilshaw and Gove should hang their heads in shame. Wilshaw may talk some sense, but his heavy handed and ignorant approach has been a big part of the problem. He seems surprised at the problems we now face…. many of which are of HIS making. How can someone with this level of responsibility and experience be so naïve???
    People keep telling me that Gove is bright,,, really? REALLY? The man is about as stupid as they get. He had absolutely no credentials for his job, yet was allowed to dismantle local authority’s education departments without having anything to replace them with. 0 out of 10 and that’s generous. The curriculum he has bequeathed us is impoverished and less relevant than ever. Pratt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.