NFER analyses the potential impact of election manifesto pledges on teacher recruitment and retention

The National Foundation For Educational Research (NFER) has shared a special election analysis feature which looks at the key policies the political parties are offering on teacher recruitment and retention.

Jack Worth, NFER lead economist and school workforce lead, said the analysis, supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, considers the costs and potential impacts of different policies on medium-term recruitment and retention.

The analysis focuses on the manifestos of the main parties standing for election in England, since the Westminster government is only responsible for education policy in England, with policymaking devolved in the other UK nations.


The NFER mentioned Labour’s pledge to recruit 6,500 new expert teachers. The institute said ‘while the exact definition or timescale for achieving this is not set out, making the pledge so prominent in its messaging signals that improving teacher supply is a high priority’.

The manifesto also pledges to spend £450m per year on achieving the 6,500 target. NFER used its simulation and forecasting model to examine options for spending £450m on a combination of pay uplifts and financial incentives with the aim of improving teacher supply.

Its baseline scenario assumes pay rises in line with average earnings growth in the wider economy, according to the latest government economic forecasts, and continuation of existing policy on bursaries and retention payments. NFER said £450m would likely improve teacher supply, but impact would depend on how it’s spent.


NFER said the Conservatives’ manifesto frames the challenge as being about ‘attract[ing] more talented teachers’, having introduced starting salaries of £30,000 and achieved ‘record numbers of teachers, 27,000 more than 2010’.

The foundation said ‘a refresh to the teacher recruitment and retention strategy was in advanced stages before the election was called’ and that the success of the Conservatives’ pledges to improve teacher recruitment and retention would seem to rely heavily on workload reduction improving retention.

Liberal Democrats

NFER stated the Liberal Democrat manifesto is ‘the only one to explicitly commit to creating a teacher workforce strategy (although the Conservative Government had a refreshed strategy in train before the election was called)’.

The foundation said the Liberal Democrat manifesto mentions teachers’ pay, proposing to ‘reform the School Teachers’ Review Body to make it properly independent of government and able to recommend fair pay rises for teachers, and fully funding those rises every year’.

NFER said implications of this for the trajectory of teacher pay would depend on the definition of ‘fair’, but it ‘seems safe to assume that this implies pay rises that at least match average earnings growth. In the context of falling competitiveness since 2019, ‘fair’ could also suggest an aim of improving the competitiveness of teacher pay.’


NFER pointed out the Green party’s proposed measures including the aim to ‘reduce the stress in our education system’ by abolishing high-stakes testing and Ofsted.

The foundation said the Green manifesto also pledges ‘£2bn for a pay uplift for teachers’, making the clearest commitment among the party manifestos on a future trajectory for teacher pay, and said such a paylift ‘would be likely to improve teacher supply across the board, through both increases in recruitment and retention’. 

NFER did point out that the ‘impact would be fairly uniform across phases and subjects, as no policy measures are targeted at subjects that are particularly in need, such as STEM and other shortage subjects. Many secondary subjects would also likely be below target’.


For Reform, NFER said that its manifesto ‘makes no reference to teacher recruitment and retention’.

The foundation said one policy measure to ‘double the number of Pupil Referral Units so schools can function safely’ could ‘conceivably be linked to improving teacher retention, seeing as our workload review identified ‘behaviour management and pastoral care’ as a top priority area for workload reduction’.

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