At the end of the last academic year in July, we consulted with the Insightful Research teacher panel and asked them what they felt their biggest challenge was going to be for the 22-23 academic year.
Here are the top 5 issues they reported:
1. Funding & budgets
Those who are in Senior Leadership positions are acutely aware of the financial pressures on schools. A perfect storm of funding cuts and rising costs (particularly utility bills) is likely to put increasing pressure on state schools. Some also acknowledge that it’s not just schools themselves who are feeling the financial pressure. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is likely to have an impact on many families, with a knock-on effect on other areas.
It is also worth noting that we asked this question before the government announced pay rises for teaching staff which need to be found from existing school budgets, and before the recent rise in energy bills.
“Tight budgets mean cutting in every direction from staff to resources, and then considering the cost of living crisis on families and what they can and the stresses this puts on children “ Assistant Headteacher
2. Teacher retention & recruitment
A key theme was dealing with staff shortages, high staff turnover rates and difficulties in recruiting new staff – or even finding supply staff to cover short-term absences. Some also raised the prospect of another winter of staff shortages due to illness if there is another wave of Covid in schools, and others were worried about the impact of potential industrial action if teaching unions should vote to strike.
“Staff shortages due to issues with pay and conditions. Increasingly highly skilled staff are leaving the profession as there is little concern for the well-being and pay for teachers.” Head of Department
3. Covid catch-up
Some are still finding it difficult to help students catch-up with lost learning due to the pandemic. A situation that has not been helped by significant absence levels due to Covid in the last academic year.
“In the last year in my faculty alone we have had over 100 man days of cover from COVID. The biggest challenge for me is moving the department forward whilst managing the issues from COVID such as staff and student absence, there simply isn't enough time for both!” Head of Maths
4. 2023 Exam series
On a related point, some teachers are concerned about the 2023 exam series. This will be the first year post-Covid that the exams return to ‘normal’ yet the impacts of lost learning and absences are still being felt, whilst teachers feel under pressure to maintain or improve results.
“The return to normality with the 2023 exam series as we're still finding several gaps in the knowledge of our current year 10 students that we wouldn't expect in a year group pre-covid.” Head of Science
5. Pupil mental health
Some teachers are concerned about the ongoing impact of increased mental health issues that they can see in their pupils. This is contributing to higher absence levels and poor behaviour in some settings.
“Dealing with the tsunami of mental health issues while trying to ensure that all children achieve their best.” Assistant Principal (Safeguarding Lead)
As well as these macro-trends, there were also numerous other challenges specific to individuals and their schools, such as dealing with a change in leadership, expecting an Ofsted visit in the near future, taking on additional personal responsibilities, developing new curriculum approaches, and changing to academy status.