Hammersmith and Fulham teachers form commission to figure out why so many schools are losing staff

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

A group of West London head teachers have banded together to investigate why so many staff are leaving the profession.

Brought together by Hammersmith and Fulham council, the six heads from local primaries and secondaries want to look at ways to retain more teachers.

Limiting teachers’ workloads and trying to provide more affordable housing are among the ideas.

Along with three academics, the heads have formed a Teaching Commission chaired by Denise Fox, the head of Fulham Cross Girls’ School.

At a council meeting on Monday, November 9, she said: “We need to get going and have a look at what we can do with teacher recruitment.

“It is strange times at the moment, and both Fulham Cross Academy and Fulham Cross Girls’ School are… losing a member of staff. One’s moving to Jersey and one’s moving to Ireland, and this is what we face. A lot of teachers don’t move to other parts of London but they move out of London completely.”

Ms Fox, who has worked at Fulham Cross Girls’ for 35 years, added: “We had a mass exodus in 2018/19 of seven of my really established teachers who had been at the school for seven years or more.

“Every single one of them moved out of London with their families to find affordable housing. It is an issue, though I think there’s several issues, workload is an issue and pay is an issue.”

Councillor Larry Culhane, the borough’s cabinet member for children and education, said: “All of us have at least one teacher who’s made an indelible mark on our lives, who we’d never ever forget.

“Part of the reason we’re asking Denise and the Commission to look into this is because we want to make sure every single young person in this borough has that one teacher, if not more.”

A report presented to Monday’s meeting showed there are 1,403 teachers working in Hammersmith and Fulham, of whom 1,193 are “classroom teachers”, not senior leadership.

But the turnover is high, and in 2017/18, 128 teachers left jobs in the borough to go elsewhere.

Twenty-nine per cent of all local teachers are male, similar to the London average.

Only 12 per cent of local teachers were aged 50+, compared to the London average of 17 per cent.

Newly qualified teachers in inner London are often paid a starting salary of £30,500. The average salary across all teaching staff in Hammersmith and Fulham, including heads, is £45,300.

Hammersmith and Fulham is the third smallest borough in London, with a population of 185,000. It is also one of the most densely populated areas in the country, and residents have higher than average salaries compared to people in London’s 32 boroughs.

Similar problems are being felt across the country.

A report from the National Association of Head Teachers in 2019 said: “The government is still failing to provide enough teachers for our growing school population. The recruitment pipeline is leaking at both ends, with insufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers coming into the system and too many experienced teachers leaving prematurely.”

Pictured: Denise Fox winning a TES Lifetime Achievement Award.


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