The first post on this blog was exactly one year ago today. Since then there have been more than 8,500 views of the 114 posts. Some 86 people have identified themselves as following the blog, and there are a number that repost to their own followers. Interestingly, the last two days have been the best two for views, with more than 650 views on Friday alone, after the link to the blog was posted on a national site.
During the past year, several issues about education in England have become clearer. Schools remain the focus of much of government policy, but how they are managed is still not clear. The differing roles of mutli-academy trusts, academy chains, and School Commissioners, let alone dioceses and local authorities are still to be fully determined, especially in the primary sector.
Schools are expected to play the key role in preparing the next generation of teachers, but whether they do so won’t become clear until this summer. If they fail to recruit enough trainees over the next few months there might be a real crisis in teacher supply by 2015, especially in the subjects that don’t interest the Secretary of State, but may be vital to the economic well-being of the country. Over-allocating training places is fine, but ensuring the required numbers are recruited is even more important.
The good news is that schools are performing better probably than at any stage in the past fifty years, at least for their most able pupils. There is still some way to go in many schools with helping their less able pupils reach their full potential. However, the government, at least at official level, seems to be more willing to consider progress measures rather than a focus on just outcomes. After all, we don’t know how much of the GCSE and A level success is due to schools, and how much to the investment in private tuition many parents are willing to fund.
Despite the rapid strides in new technology that are occurring almost on a daily basis, with open access courses probably being the triumph of 2013, schooling is still a very labour intensive activity. For that reason the morale of the workforce is vital to pupil achievement. The government seems to recognise that in relation to school leaders, but might be more understanding of the support needed for classroom teachers. Educating Yorkshire and the travails of the Teach First trainees have shown TV viewers across the country what working in real school is like on a day to day basis, and made teacher bashing by ministers less believable. Between now and the general election the government has to think about recovering from its short-sighted abolition of the GTCE, the professional body for teachers. Supporting a College of Teachers might be a sensible option.
Looking back across the past year, if this blog has achieved anything other than to allow me the pleasure of writing a weekly column, as I did for the TES for more than a decade, it has been to highlight the issue of teacher supply. There is more discussion, and more data available, than for many years. If that helps prevent a teacher supply crisis in the future then I will be more than content. In the meantime, I will continue to write at roughly weekly intervals with the aim of discussing the numbers around the school system in England. Thank you for reading, and a big thank you to those who have sent me comments during the past year.