This idea won’t solve the current problem in teacher supply

Mr Taylor, the head of the National College for Teaching and Leadership is given to New Year suggestions that can sometimes seem extreme. A few years ago he advocated the abolition of the Teacher Supply Model process and its replacement with local decisions about recruitment into the profession. This year he appears to be suggesting some form of talent spotting of youngsters as a means of overcoming a teacher shortage that he still isn’t apparently prepared to admit has occurred on his watch. This is despite plenty of warning from those that understand the labour market for teachers.

Although a scheme, whether called cadetships, apprenticeships or even a taster scheme, won’t help alleviate the current teacher shortage, and it is naive to suggest anything to the contrary, the idea has been tried before. I recall going to visit such a scheme in North Carolina nearly 20 years ago whereby schools offered cadetship to those possibly interested in a career as a teacher. The problem was that although many potential primary school teachers identified teaching as a possible career when at high school, possible secondary subject teachers were often still more interested in their subject than in how they would use their knowledge after university. Offering tasters at university to this group is probably better than trying something at school where subject enjoyment is often seen as correlated with teacher enthusiasm and likeability. Nevertheless, helping pupils identify the positives of teaching can be useful in counteracting their over-exposure to schooling compared with their understanding of other potential careers.

As teaching is an occupation, schemes to attract youngsters mustn’t either fall foul of employment law or look like cheap alternative to fill gaps where there are insufficient numbers of trained teachers. In the 1960s, scholarship pupils where I went to school often spent two terms as class teachers in local secondary modern schools helping to fill vacancies before going on to university. I am sure that isn’t what Mr Taylor had in mind, but his Daily Telegraph interview does seem to veer towards re-introducing pupil teachers or monitors in classrooms when he refers to such children as classroom assistants. Perhaps he has modelled his idea on the football talent spotting schemes that try to identify future stars while they are still at primary school.

In the past, many young people received their first taste of teaching as Sunday School Teachers or similar roles in other faith communities and many still help younger siblings at home. Uniform organisations were also a route to learning about working with people and helping others to develop new skills. How primary pupils would act as teaching assistants without affecting their own education isn’t covered by Mr Taylor in his interview. Perhaps he just has visions of them as monitors handing out resources, although some might have opportunities to lead baffled teachers through the intricacies of computer coding that is now part of the curriculum.

Putting in place schemes to attract sufficient teachers in ten years time is a long-term project. What Mr Taylor doesn’t seem to accept, perhaps because he would need to admit his own part in bringing it about, is that we have a teacher supply crisis now. I suggested in my post yesterday that fees be abated for trainee teachers and that they all be paid a bursary. That would produce results now, which is when we need more trainee teachers.


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