The Dash for Primary Teacher Talent

We’ve looked at the 2021 recruitment landscape for primary school teachers, including music and STEAM specialists, and in a series of articles are bringing you the very best insights on Educational Recruitment

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It’s Official - Recruitment Season is Open

Staff budgets are in place, governors are on side, and your hiring needs are well-documented. You’ve worked with your senior leadership team to develop a strategic hiring plan and you’re looking to the talent market to support a few key initiatives resulting from enrolment growth, diversification of your offering or the desire to just “shake things up” a bit . On top of this, you’ve got the right employment branding, recruitment tools, internal processes and emotional stamina to last through what promises to be a tempestuous recruitment season.

If this sounds like you – congratulations!

However, if one or more of these success factors are out of sync with your current reality, don’t despair. Sing Education have you covered.

We’ve looked at the 2021 recruitment landscape for primary school teachers, including music and STEAM specialists, and in a series of articles are bringing you the very best insights on:

  • The growth in teacher training applications and candidates entering the sector
  • Why competitive pay is so important for both new and experienced teachers alike
  • How to look outside the classroom to see what your “hidden” competitors are doing
  • Why wellbeing incentives and flexible working add to teacher satisfaction
  • Recruiting flexibly – getting the very best talent while eliminating excessive time spent on recruitment, payrolling and management

Download our resource about why good teachers leave?

Why Do Good Teachers Leave? Download here

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Surfeit or Tsunami: Today’s Turbulent Talent Market

2021. Is it an over-the-top smorgasbord of new teaching talent? Or a tidal wave of transition gathering steam just a few years offshore?

In the feature, Teacher recruitment rises in coronavirus lockdown, the FT canninly reported on how a “surge of teacher training applications during the Covid-19 lockdown could help plug staff shortages in education in England and Wales, according to new analysis that suggests the pandemic has increased interest in public sector work.

The overall number of teacher training applications rose 16 per cent this year, and between mid-March and mid-August rose 35 per cent compared to 2019. The rise in teacher training applications follows a 16 per cent jump in applications to nursing and midwifery courses, as the pandemic increased the appeal of careers with a social purpose and greater security in unstable economic times.

The biggest increase in accepted offers for teaching courses, of 54 per cent, is among people aged 21 and younger, suggesting new graduates have turned to teaching in the face of depleted entry-level roles and graduate schemes in the private sector.” 1

But before we all start celebrating – there’s a dark side to this story as well. And we only have to look back to the global banking crisis in 2008 for clues. Let’s consider for a moment what past economic downturn, global upheaval and employment displacement have revealed about the mercurial nature of talent markets.

Ian Hartwright, Senior Policy Adviser, NAHT in advocating for better pay packages for educators, wrote in Schools Week: “Of course, starting salaries in teaching must rise in order to attract high-quality graduates and career-changers. [But] this year’s uptick in ITT applications offers no room for complacency. It’s worth remembering that the new entrants sheltering in the profession from the economic storm of 2008 soon melted away as matters improved.” 2

So unless headteachers, SLTs and MAT leaders get their hiring plans in order – proactively making plans to address the inevitable staff churn in the offing – they may very well face dire consequences in just a few years time. As the economy recovers and offers more options to mid-career staff – both in and outside the education sector – schools could very well lose the best and brightest they fought hard to acquire.

Pay is a Good Place to Start

Followed by class size, more PPA time and reduced workloads.

“The government has tried everything to distract from its failure to deal with the profession’s pay. They have run out of excuses” says Mr. Hartwright. 3

“For the past five years the [School Teachers’ Review Body]’s reports have followed a consistent theme: a significant pay uplift is required to increase the competitiveness of teaching in relation to other professional occupations. Those seeking and exercising leadership roles, it adds, must be fairly remunerated for the additional pressure and responsibilities they take on.” 4

Hartwright continues “NAHT agrees that professional support and development is critical. But the now endemic problems of teacher and leadership supply will not be resolved by the [Early Career Framework] and some reformed [National Professional Qualifications] alone. The unresolved issues of teacher and leadership pay, high-stakes accountability and unsustainable workload are of greater importance. Professional development is complementary to a pay system that rewards professional experience, expertise and responsibility.” 5

And further areas need review as well. According to March 2021 National Education Union survey results, “Respondents indicated a strong view that professional autonomy, student focus through smaller classes, and more staff in order to administer them, is a route to resolving the historic workload challenge. But it is also clear that this must be matched by a government willing to step back and allow a space for teachers, leaders and support staff to do their job. It would require less bureaucracy, fewer reforms, and a reduction in the culture of data and high-stakes tests.” 6


Download our resource about why good teachers leave?

Why Do Good Teachers Leave? Download here

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Competition - Inside and Outside The School Room

And on that note, don’t assume that the competition for talent starts and ends with the primary school down the road or the pre-school/nursery across town.

Yes, we agree it’s important to understand your local market and the expectations staff may have based on factors such as regional geography, local economy or comparative workplace conditions, when it comes to teaching you also have to be concerned with the career alternatives potential hires may be exploring outside the classroom.

Whether it’s taking over the family business, starting a family or starting an enterprise, schools and other employers have to be mindful that today’s talent have numerous potential life pathways. And factors like increasingly virtual work environments, shorter expectations around job tenure and highly transferable skillsets, make it easier than ever for staff to explore multiple industries and work settings before committing to a single career path. For that reason, teaching is just one of many attractive options for newly (and not-so-newly) minted degree holders – even those with specialised postgraduate educational qualifications.

For example, Miles Jennings, Founder of writes that some jobs are great jobs, and other jobs are great FIRST jobs on your way to long-term entrepreneurship. It’s a controversial opinion but nonetheless one worth examining before you begin recruiting in earnest.

His piece in Entrepreneur magazine continues, “Some students will look for a great tech name, some for the best exposure to their favorite industry and others for whatever job pays the most. But many ask what is the best job versus the best first job. Instead, first jobs should be stepping stones — a way to capture knowledge quickly and move on, versus a position that offers immediate gratification in the form of compensation, benefits or a title. This is especially important for future entrepreneurs.” 7

Wellbeing Just the Tip of the Iceberg

“Teachers should not have to choose between their career and having a life, according to a maths teacher and author who quit the classroom “exhausted, stressed, frustrated and absolutely furious” – Schools Week 8

That’s why it’s particularly important to tap into needs, both stated and unstated, by new hires and high calibre candidates. What are they looking for in this teaching post? What support would help them stay anchored in a new and potentially unfamiliar environment? What progression, development and work-life balance expectations do they have? Where would they see themselves in five years’ time – in a leadership role at your school, returning for further education, or leaving the sector entirely for another career?

It’s also important to unpack any overused buzzwords to get beneath the surface of their meanings. For example, what does wellbeing, work-life balance or flexible working mean to today’s educators?

Well, according to Schools Week, “Schools are letting teachers take their planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time at home, banning work in the staff room and cutting the hours of senior leaders, all in the name of staff wellbeing and flexible working.” 9

And in its feature, Nine ways schools can ease teacher pressure in 2021, TES offers several practical tips designed to anticipate staff needs in the highly pressurised, complex and malleable Covid environment. These include reducing email overload, over-communicating for clarity, making meetings matter, and keeping work-from home flexibility.

  • “We never thought working from home could be a luxury afforded to teaching staff, but lockdown taught us differently. PPA, virtual parents’ evenings, Inset days: these can all be accessed from home. Providing that extra flexibility can be a lifeline for so many at the moment, and it also goes a long way in showing trust in staff.
  • With staff – and parents and pupils – being pulled in so many directions, things are going to be missed, so do what you can to avoid this by making sure messages are clear, direct and repeated enough times to be memorable, without becoming a bombardment.
  • We all know the frustration of attending a meeting that didn’t need to be a meeting. It causes lost time and interruption to working flow, so make sure you really ensure that any meetings you call – virtually or in-person if safe to do so – really need to take place.
  • Above all else, check in with staff. Whatever your position, ask people how they are and try really hard to listen to their response. This goes for all staff: maintenance, catering, support, teaching and even leaders.” 10



Click here to continue on to part two of our in-depth series on Gold-Star Recruitment and Retention – Top Strategies for Staffing Your Primary.

To learn more about Sing Education, including how our classroom music provision, extracurricular instrumental lessons and 360° music management services contribute to a well-rounded music curriculum, please visit

For even more data and guidance to help build your business case for recruitment, click below to download your FREE infographic “The Push and Pull for Talent.”

Download our resource about why good teachers leave?

Why Do Good Teachers Leave? Download here

About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 9,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

#SingEducation #MusicChangesLives


PART I Sources

  1. Teacher recruitment rises in coronavirus lockdown – FT
  2. Teacher and leadership pay can no longer be ignored – Schools Week
  3. As above
  4. As above
  5. As above
  6. 1 in 3 staff intend to leave education profession in next 5 years, says new survey of 10,000+ NEU members – FE News
  7. The Best First Jobs for People Interested in Entrepreneurship – Entrepreneur
  8. How are schools implementing flexible working? – Schools Week
  9. As above
  10. 9 ways schools can ease teacher pressure in 2021 – TES
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