Teaching and schools have featured strongly in the news today with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show covering the issue of possible teacher shortages and most other news media featuring the opening of new free schools at the start of term. The Victoria Derbyshire piece is at 30 minutes into the show and can be seen on BBC i-player for anyone interested. The head from Educating Essex and the President of ATL were joined in the discussion on the show by a Teach First primary teacher and the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, with a small contribution from myself.
A little earlier, just before 0830 the Secretary of State for Education was interviewed on BBC Breakfast News about the new Free Schools. Not I think her finest hour in front of the TV cameras, but sadly you cannot judge for yourself because BBC Breakfast doesn’t appear on the BBC i-player. If anyone recorded the interview, hopefully it might turn up on youtube or somewhere else.
It was disappointing to hear a Secretary of State that didn’t know how many free schools weren’t opening today due to problems and even worse, what was going to happen to the children affected by schools not opening on time. In the days before cabinet government, could you imagine an Education Committee that would let such a thing happen? Most had far more civic pride in the service they provided regardless of their political background.
TeachVac launched its expansion into the primary sector yesterday and also welcomed another of the large academy chains to the site. As more schools and applicants register for free, so the quality of the data collected improves and more and more vacancies can be matched with teachers. I am delighted to see we are beginning to understand in ‘real time’ what is happening in the labour market for teachers. There are still issues about measuring quality, especially in mathematics where trainee numbers at the ITT census last November looked as if they might have been sufficient to meet demand but clearly haven’t been.
I suppose the trips to Canada and South Africa recruiting maths teachers are about as welcome to deputy heads as taking a press gang out during the Napoleonic Wars was to naval officers of the day. The only difference is that ship’s captains didn’t lead press gangs, but some heads might lead the recruitment team on overseas visits. However, in my experience work trips are never the fun others think they were, despite what sometimes sound like exotic locations.
There have been concerns about the pre-entry skills tests affecting recruitment. I thought it was a good idea to move them to before entry, but I may need to re-think my view if it appears that the change is reducing the intake of possible trainees that might have passed the tests at the end of a PGCE or School Direct year when they could have had some coaching in areas they found challenging. After all, we cannot afford to lose would-be teachers. The alternative would be for the government to pay potential teachers to attend courses that improve their knowledge and skills to the standard required. About as likely as paying trainees fees, I fear.