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Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


The unbroken demand for (poorly paid) teachers

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 26 August 2022

Golo Henseke and Shunyu Yang.

Teacher recruitment is faltering. Despite an increase in the number of teacher trainees in 2020/21, schools anticipate severe staffing challenges for the upcoming academic year.

How did we get here?

This is the second post in a two-part blog series on the teaching profession using data from online job vacancies. The first post investigated job skill requirements, how they have changed since 2012, and how they relate to pay. This blog tracks changes in the demand for and pay of teachers since 2012. The period coincides with several education reforms by successive conservative governments.

Compared with other professions, the demand for teachers remained relatively strong even through the worst of the pandemic. However, low pay continues to be an issue. Especially for primary school teachers, there was a widening gap between the salary they could expect and the pay offered in other professions since 2012. In 2020, after accounting for inflation, a quarter of adverts for primary school teachers offered less than £30,000 per year in real terms.

Current study

We looked at more than a million online job vacancies for teaching positions since 2012 to understand the demand for teachers. The data were gathered and prepared for analysis by Lightcast (formerly EMSI Burning Glass), which uses industry-leading algorithms to de-duplicate and process job adverts from online vacancy boards.

This post examines vacancies for Teaching and Educational Professionals (except Higher Education Teaching Professionals) and Teaching Assistants.


Demand for Teachers

In Britain, about 8.8% of online adverts for professional and associate jobs were for teachers and school leaders in 2019. This figure is relatively low. About 17% of the professional workforce worked in teaching in 2019.

Figure 1: Job vacancies for teachers and other professionals in 2019 and 2020

According to online vacancies data, the teacher job market showed remarkable resilience in 2020 (Figure 1). Despite the pandemic, the total number of teacher vacancies in 2020 (138,512) was higher than in 2019 (128,235) by about 8%. The number of vacancies hit its low point with around 6,700 in April 2020 during the first national COVID-19 lockdown. After the initial shock, teacher demand stabilised by late spring. By mid-summer and early autumn, demand for teaching professionals had expanded beyond pre-pandemic levels.

By contrast, vacancies for other professionals, excluding health, fell sharply in April and remained below their 2019 figures until autumn 2020.

December 2020 saw a general rebound in hiring.

The dashed line displays vacancy estimates in the Education sector from the ONS Vacancy Survey. Although the figures are overall more pessimistic than the occupation-based estimates from Lightcast, both follow similar trends: a dip in spring and early summer during the first national lockdown was followed by some recovery in the second half of 2020.

Trends in Teacher Pay

The British government has committed to delivering teaching starting salaries of £30,000 by 2023 to persuade more graduates to join the profession.

The chart below (Figure 2) displays the percentage of job adverts for secondary and primary school teachers with salary offers below £30k in today’s prices.

Figure 2: Trends in hourly teacher pay and the pay gap relative to other professions, 2012-2020

The proportion of job adverts for secondary teachers that offered a salary of less than £30k in real terms rose from 6.5% to 13% in 2019 with a sharp drop to 7.7% in 2020.  The average pay gap with other professions climbed initially to 8% but narrowed subsequently to 3% in 2020 (dashed line).

By contrast, primary teacher positions that paid below 30k in real terms jumped from 14% in 2012 to one in four in 2020. This increase was sharp and continuous. The pay gap compared to other professions doubled from 7% to 14%. If the data are accurate, UK schools were further away from the goal of offering primary teachers competitive pay in 2020 than they had been in 2012.


Using online vacancy data to monitor trends in the teacher job market, this post documents an unbroken demand for teachers with, at worst, a modest interruption at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, despite this, pay has often trailed behind other professions, in particular for primary teachers. The average pay gap has doubled to 14% since 2012. A quarter of vacancies offered less than £30k per year in real terms.

This is a matter of concern. Early years education is creating the necessary conditions for successful progression through school, into tertiary education, and for success, independence and wellbeing in later life. The long squeeze on the salary of those who work with young children during this formative period can’t be good news.

The target of an annual starting salary of £30,000 in 2023 will help to reverse some of the erosion of pay since 2012. However, with current levels of inflation projected to last over the medium-term, £30,000 in 2023 might not make as much of a splash as the government is hoping for.

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/T014768/1].



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