Labour's 6,500 Teacher Promise - UK Election 2024

The UK General election is just days away, and if we look at the latest polls, it looks like we’ll soon be seeing a Labour Government. As Labour leader, one of Keir Starmer's main policies is to recruit more teachers, but will it be enough?

How many teachers are Labour planning to recruit? 

Labour’s manifesto states that they will recruit 6,500 new qualified teachers in key subjects, a pledge first made in 2021. Labour says in their manifesto that they will get more teachers into shortage subjects, support areas that are facing recruitment issues, and tackle retention problems.  

Growth in teaching has stalled over the last few years, with the workforce growing by just 259 full-time equivalent teachers in the year leading up to November 2023, compared to an increase of 2,844 the previous year.  

How will Labour afford this? 

Details of how these teachers will be recruited in a Labour government have been sparse, but we do know that they intend to fund this by ending certain tax breaks for private schools, with the belief that they can raise £1.5 billion from this to fund a new cohort of teachers. 

Ending these tax breaks could result in parents paying an extra 20% in school fees, which has raised a few eyebrows, and certainly caused some debate. One argument is that by ending tax breaks for private schools, it will squeeze those who are already struggling to send their children to private school, and it could then lead to an influx of students entering public schools – who are struggling with a lack of skilled teachers. 

Most (93%) children attend public schools, with just 7% attending private schools, so while we’re not sure if there will be a mass exodus that makes a drastic impact, it’s difficult to predict if this tax break closure will have a potential knock-on effect.  

Shane Rounce Ytdatzz Q1m Unsplash

How are Labour planning on fighting against retention issues? 

There isn’t much in terms of a clear plan to tackle retention issues in their manifesto, however Labour have promised the following in order to help fight this: 

  • A review of retention payments 
  • Reinstating the School Support Staff Negotiating Body 
  • Introduce a new Teacher Training Entitlement 

These promises will look to give teachers more support and training in their role, with the School Support Staff Negotiating Body being reinstated to help fight recruitment and retention issues in support roles in particular, and the Teacher Training Entitlement allowing teachers to continue to upskill and stay up to date in their role with continuing professional development. 

Will this plan work? 

A crucial aspect of Labour's plan is addressing the underlying causes of teacher shortages and high attrition rates. Beyond financial incentives, improving working conditions, reducing administrative burdens, and fostering a supportive school environment are essential. The success of these measures will largely depend on the implementation and the willingness of the government to engage with educators and stakeholders to create a sustainable and effective teaching workforce. 

Labour's promise to recruit 6,500 new teachers is an ambitious and potentially transformative policy. However, its success will hinge on adequate funding, effective implementation, and addressing both recruitment and retention challenges. Whether this will be enough to resolve the current issues in the education sector remains to be seen. Still, it is a step in the right direction towards supporting teachers and improving educational outcomes for students. 

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