Nearly a third of teachers who qualified in the last decade have since left the profession, according to Labour analysis that has been released as the party attempts to shift the political focus on to education.
With the results of strike ballots by teaching unions due in the coming days, Labour intends to use a Commons vote this week to push their plan to impose VAT on private school fees, which they say would help pay for new teachers in the state sector.
The party wants to use an opposition day on Wednesday to pass a motion – intended to be binding – that would set up a new Common select committee to look specifically at the issue of VAT on private school fees.
According to a Labour analysis of Department for Education statistics, of just under 270,000 teachers who qualified in England between 2011 and 2020, more than 81,000 have since left the profession, or three in 10 of the total.
More recently, 13% of teachers in England who have qualified since the last general election in December 2019 quit in the subsequent two years, about 3,000 in total.
Three teaching unions representing staff across England and Wales are balloting members on strike action, while a fourth is considering this. While the disputes are primarily about pay, there is also considerable disquiet about staff shortages, overwork and stress, identified as a key reason for people leaving the profession.
Labour is planning its opposition day motion next week as part of a wider attempt to focus the political spotlight on investment in schools, especially over staffing, and the pledge on VAT, which the party says would raise £1.7bn a year.
The Conservatives argue the policy would simply cause some private schools to close, accusing Keir Starmer of waging “class war”. But Labour believe the policy will be popular, with Starmer using a recent prime minister’s questions to say it would raise £10m from Rishi Sunak’s former school, Winchester, alone.
Labour said it estimated there are 350,000 qualified teachers not currently teaching in the state sector, and that money from the VAT policy could pay for 6,500 extra teachers, as well as training for existing staff.
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “This dangerous exodus of new teaching recruits could result in even greater teacher vacancies in years to come and ultimately to lower standards in our schools.
“A decade of Conservative neglect of our schools is already forcing experienced teachers from the classroom – for more recently qualified teachers to be leaving the profession is a worrying double whammy.
“Labour believes excellence is for everyone: that is why we will end tax breaks for private schools and use the money to recruit 6,500 new teachers as part of our national excellence programme.”
The tactic of trying to make an opposition day motion binding is a common recent tactic used by Labour to force the government to make its MPs vote down an issue, rather than ignoring the process.
A Labour source said: “Conservative MPs voting against our motion are voting against higher standards in state schools for the majority of children in our country.”
A government spokesperson said the number of teachers “remains high”, with 24,000 more working in state schools than in 2010, while bursaries and levelling up premiums were helping attract new entrants to subjects like maths, science and computing.
They said: “We are also making the highest pay awards in a generation – 5% for experienced teachers and more for those early in their careers, including an up to 8.9% increase to starting salary.”