Harpenden headteacher tells MPs teachers are facing “double whammy” of financial and workload challenges

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with Roundwood Park School headteacher Alan Henshall. Photo supplied by Mr

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with Roundwood Park School headteacher Alan Henshall. Photo supplied by Mr Afolami's office. - Credit: Archant

Harpenden headteacher Alan Henshall has told a parliamentary committee teachers are facing a “double whammy” of financial and workload challenges.

The Roundwood Park School chief gave evidence on teacher retention to the Public Accounts Committee, including Harpenden MP Bim Afolami.

Mr Henshall said: “You have this double whammy of more people coming into your class, headteachers and school leaders trying to save money by imposing more on their teachers, and the workload increasing because of the pace of change in examinations is being managed in a very poor way nationally.”

The committee took evidence from teachers and academics on Wednesday, November 15 following a report by the National Audit Office into teacher numbers.

The report showed secondary school teacher numbers fell by 10,800 between 2010 and 2016.

Asked how the Department of Education could help schools retain teachers, Mr Henshall said: “You might be able to help us recruit and retain if you helped us with flexible working.

“Flexible working is quite an expensive business for schools. Employing two part-timers is a lot more expensive than employing one full-timer, because of the on-costs involved. But what I have found — and the report states — is there are an awful lot of qualified teachers out there not practising.

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“That is a waste of public money, in that they were trained to teach.

“One of the things they are often tempted back by is flexible working and part-time working. If we could be given resources to bring those people back in, that would be really good.”

Since 2011, new examinations for children at Key Stage 3, GCSE, and A-Level have been introduced.

Additionally, Fair Funding For All Schools has claimed schools will see a real terms cut of 4.6 per cent between 2015 and 2019.

Mr Henshall said it was more expensive to employ part-timers due to the school having to pay National Insurance and pension contributions to both.

He said 21 of his teachers, among some of the best he has, were part-time.

In terms of recruiting teachers to Roundwood, they have advertised 16 teacher jobs since May.

Nine had no applicants at all, six had one applicant and one had two applicants.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami asked Mr Henshall: “How do you think you could be supported by the Department or by local government in dealing with the living costs problem, which I know you will have acutely in Harpenden?”

The Herts Advertiser reported in February how houses in the east of England, including Herts, had risen the most of anywhere in the UK.

Prices rose by 11.3 per cent year-on-year in the area, compared to a UK-wide average increase of 7.2 per cent.

Mr Henshall replied: “I am not originally from Harpenden, I am a Yorkshireman. I was enticed to go and teach in a fairly challenging school in Luton as a newly-qualified teacher, because I had a rent allowance offered to me by Luton.

“I came down and had the rent paid for me for the first year. That enabled me to relocate and start work there and to teach in an area that was perhaps very difficult to recruit in, and it enabled the school to recruit me.

“Certain things on relocation might help with the regional variability that we were talking about. That is one suggestion I would make.

Later on, he said: “High-quality teaching is the most important thing. More important than class size.

“However, you can give more attention individually to someone and your lesson becomes a lot better if your class size is small.”