Time to move on?

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.


4 thoughts on “Time to move on?

  1. Why, then, does the D of E repeatedly refuse to acknowledge or address the issue being raised by every single professional and academic body in education? There must be some sort of market driven concept behind this – that the market will provide or something similar. They keep saying they have allowed schools to pay more to attract the best teachers but what if the schools can’t pay more or the best teachers don’t want to live or work in the area of the school?
    At some point young people of a certain demographic will increasingly be taught by less qualified staff and we will end up with a stratified education system.

    • As the title to the blog post suggests my feeling is that although it may not yet be time for Ministers to ditch the ‘problem, what problem’ approach there is a growing realism that the data cannot be gainsayed. I think that the NAO Report had a big part to play in shifting attitudes and it will be interesting to see what happens at the Public accounts committee when the DfE are asked about the NAO Report. I expect some announcements of low cost initiatives in the near future.

      But, if they don’t want the best for everyone and especially not for those that don’t vote Tory then they may not care as much. But there comes a time when you cannot ignore an issue any longer.

      John Howson

      • John, you have anticipated the exodus to international schools. Do you think social media has also changed the rules of teacher supply? Young people considering teaching are now much more aware of its reality, don’t you think? Do you think this has exacerbated the situation? At Conference Wilshaw mentioned TV programmes, but blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. have also played their part.

      • I think social media has played its part, as did the introduction of the internet in the late 1990s. School leaders, because they work with young people, need to be far more aware of what is happening in technology than their age group as a whole.

        Long-term readers of this blog will recall my comments about the ‘tough young teachers’ series, so why did it take the Chief Inspector so long to voice his comments. He is right, as the head of a school in Corby found to his cost in a 1980s fly on the wall series. Good TV entertains, informs and educates in that order of priority. Schools don’t use the same approach and much of what happens doesn’t make for good TV rather as rolling news isn’t the same as a news bulletin.

        The real change has been to a less deferential society, although you only have to read ‘roaring boys’, Edward Blishen’s autobiography of teaching in the East End of London in the 1940s, to know everything wasn’t easy then. Bullying was common in the 1950s, and appeared in many school stories even about the independent sector and I seem to recall that even Mr Chips had a hard time of it to start with.

        Even so, good news stories are always welcome and we don’t hear enough of them about teachers from politicians.

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