As the ASCL members meet for their annual conference, the topic of teacher supply is likely to be raised frequently by delegates, both in formal sessions and in more informal discussions around the conference bars and restaurants. Indeed, Policy Exchange, the Tory think tank Mr Gove had a hand in establishing and various key players in education have worked for in the past, published a pamphlet today of a conference organised in the autumn by both Policy Exchange and ASCL on the topic of teachers and their recruitment entitled; “The importance of teachers”. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/category/item/the-importance-of-teachers-a-collection-of-essays-on-teacher-recruitment-and-retention
Now, I don’t often give Tory Think Tanks much of an airing on this blog, but as I was asked to contribute to the conference and my paper appears in the collection of published essays, I will make an exception this time. Two ideas that have been gaining in credibility, are the possibility of secondary schools offering more part-time jobs in recognition of the changing composition of the teaching workforce in terms of both age and gender. Compared with the primary sector, there is much less part-time working in secondary schools at present. This idea also received a mention yesterday at a seminar organised by the Guardian to promote its research into the views of teachers about their work and work-life balance.
Policy Exchange also mentions a revival of the Keep in Touch schemes run by some local authorities, most notably Buckinghamshire, in the 1980s as a means of not losing touch with those that take career breaks. Once senses that even the idea of sabbaticals would be attractive, but have been ruled out on the grounds of cost. Interestingly, as I pointed out in my blog about Margaret Thatcher, she was the Secretary of State for Education that proposed teacher sabbaticals in a White Paper, only to see the idea scuppered by the oil price hikes after 1972: could the fall in oil prices bring the dead back? It seems unlikely since falling oil prices these days also mean lost government revenue.
Anyway, all this is a long way from the title of this piece. But, in reality, there now seems to be an acceptance that there is an issue with teacher supply whether it is couched in recruitment terms or absolute numbers. The discussion is now moving on to how to either solve or at least alleviate the issue? KIT and more offers of part-time working; forgiveness of loans; a review of QTS to ensure subject knowledge is sufficient and if not to develop SKE post-entry – similar to Chris Waterman’s Teach Next idea – and making sure location specific trainees don’t lose out in the job market are all ideas that have been floated recently, along with Sir Andrew Carter grow your own from TAs to teachers concept of QTS -2 and QTS -1. Although I don’t think that idea will work well in the secondary sector. Addressing the housing issue and workload also seem to be high on the agenda, so it will be interesting to see what emerges as the recruitment round grinds on towards its grim conclusion in January 2017.