In the 1990s when Chris Woodhead became head of Ofsted he mentioned a figure of 15,000 poor quality teachers that needed removing in an early interview. That figure became stuck in the minds of journalists and was trotted out for many years even though it wasn’t often supported by any evidence. We now have a similar situation with the 40% of teachers that allegedly quit the profession in their first year of teaching. This figure goes right back to an interview Mike Tomlinson gave, I think but haven’t checked, to The Guardian when he took over from Mr Woodhead. Recently, it gained a new lease of life when used by ATL’s general secretary at their annual conference this spring. Here’s what I wrote on May 8th

Teacher supply was an area of interest following the teacher associations annual conferences. I was surprised, and not a little disappointed, to see the General Secretary of ATL use data from 2011 – data from during the height of the recession – to discuss recruitment and staying-on rates for teachers in 2015. It may well be that in London and the South East more teachers will leave during their first year, but in 2011 the problem for many teachers was finding a job in the first place. This year the problem for some schools has been finding a teacher at all.

Although Sam Freedman and I don’t share the same political views we do share a regard for the accurate use of data and his comments at say what I think, although the statistics he mentions for secondary trainees are in Table 6 with table 5 covering undergraduate courses.

That at least two leading recruitment agencies have used the 40% statistic to support their promotional campaigns is disappointing, as I would have hoped for a little more maturity from them.  Anyhow the figure is now firmly in the public consciousness and will reappear from time to time when thoughtless commentators discuss teacher supply problems. as this is an issue likely to remain in the headlines we can expect to see the figure used regularly.

But, there is no use just moaning. We need an agenda for action on teacher supply. Here are some suggestions;

– Pay the fees of all graduate trainees from 2015 entry onwards – this will be especially helpful to career changers that have paid off previous fees and will need to repay the £9,000 as soon as they start teaching

– Look to how those training to be teachers that have links to communities can be employed in those communities and more mobile students can be encouraged to move to where they are needed.

– Make sure teacher preparation places are more closely linked to where the jobs will be. This means reviewing places in London and the Home counties – not enough – and the north West – probably too many in some subjects and sectors.

– look at trainees that cannot find a job because we trained too many of them and see whether with some minimal re-training they might be useful teachers. This applies especially to PE teachers this year – some might re-train as science teachers or primary PE specialists and art teachers if they can work in design part of D&T.

– ramp up the 2015 autumn advertising campaign spend, including an early TV and social media advertising spend that at least matches that of the MoD.

– split the teacher preparation part of the National College away from the Leadership and professional development elements and put someone in charge that understands the issues- Sir Andrew Carter springs to mind as an obvious choice.

– look at the NQT year support now that local authorities don’t have the cash to help. This may be vital in keeping primary teachers in the profession, especially if anything goes wrong at the school where they are working.

None of these are new idea, and many were in my submission to the Carter Review that can be found in an earlier post. What is clear is that the new government cannot continue with an amateurish approach that marked some of the tactics towards teacher supply during the last few years. With many thousands more pupils entering schools over the next few years we cannot create a world class school system with fewer teachers.

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