Young man at a job interview in a classroom

The shortfall in the number of graduates entering Initial Teacher Training has been well reported, with teaching unions and education leaders citing relative pay and conditions as the main reason for teaching’s declining appeal to graduates.  

Undoubtedly, pay and conditions play a significant role in any graduate’s career decisions. However, is salary all that is stopping more young people from aspiring to become teachers or work in education? Or are there broader cultural and structural reasons that are causing schools to fail to appeal to young people? 

A recent survey of Youth Ambassadors by Youth Employment UK suggests there is more school leaders could do to promote education as a career path for young people (including their current pupils). 

The respondents to the survey cited opportunity and knowledge as potential reasons for a broader lack of interest in careers in education. Suggestions included:  

“More talks and insight into teaching and why a young person should consider it.” 

“Easing potential teachers into the field and exposing them as much as possible to different classrooms and schools.” 

Other responses hinted at broader, cultural reasons why teaching and education may fall out of favour. Education’s perceived lack of flexibility made it unappealing. This is telling, against schools’ continued struggles to embed flexible working. 

For teachers and school leaders from a different generation, this may seem trite. But the world of work has changed. The idea of a single career path across decades in a series of roles within the same profession now seems old-fashioned and restrictive.  

Education faces stiff competition from other sectors, such as technology and finance. Industries often seen as more attractive, with greater benefits, higher salaries, and faster career progression. As a result, education may need help to compete for young talent. 

So, what more could schools do to appeal to young people? 

One thing is to start appealing to a future workforce as early as possible. Since the pandemic, the number of pupils undertaking work experience has dropped. Multi-Academy Trusts and Federations could allow their pupils to gain work experience within their group, giving young people the opportunity to experience work in education first-hand. 

More broadly, schools and MATs must consider how they stack up as employers against other sectors. Is your employee value proposition youth-friendly? Are your recruitment practices (including where you recruit) actively discouraging younger applicants? Targeted input from an organisation such as Youth Employment UK (Good Youth Employment Membership) will help you understand whether you are a youth-friendly employer.  

The problems of recruitment and retention in schools are complex and diverse, going far beyond appealing to a younger or older generation. However, what is true is that the world of work has changed radically in the last ten years and will continue to change. To survive, education must evolve to reflect these broader changes and appeal to the workforce of tomorrow, who, conveniently, are today’s pupils. 

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