Experienced teachers are more effective than those who are in the first few years of their careers and teachers in the most advantaged fifth of schools have an average of nearly one and a half years more experience than those in the least advantaged, according to initial findings from a research project by the University of Cambridge, presented to a Sutton Trust conference in London recently. http://www.suttontrust.com/newsarchive/best-in-class-summit/
Now, there’s a surprise: experience matters as much in teaching as in any other walk of life. Actually, it is good to have this fact confirmed from time to time. What matters with this research is if inexperienced teachers end up in more challenging schools as a result of market forces. Such an outcome leaves a Conservative government with a dilemma. If they really want to improve outcomes for pupils in challenging schools they need to address the percentage of inexperienced teachers in such schools. I saw this first hand in the 1970s in Tottenham where the most challenging schools had high staff turnover and large numbers of inexperienced new entrants that included myself among them. In the Highgate end of the borough this was far less of an issue.
The research highlighted a the start of this post pinpoints the differences in behaviour between challenging schools and those less difficult to teach in as a factor in and this may well be why so many new entrants to the classroom cite behaviour managements as their greatest challenge. Any teacher preparation course must cover a wide range of topics and probably would find it a real challenge to impart the skills necessary to teach in the most challenging schools. However, once teachers have found a teaching post in such a school the extra support ought to be channelled in their direction, as I suspect tis the case in the best of the Academy Trusts, but is not yet the norm.
For a government wedded to the market, it is the market that will need to solve the problem. This usually means money, as supply and demand are governed by price. The alternative is to use a Corbynite Labour solution and direct teachers where they need to work.
The research mentioned above highlighted that teachers recognise success in a school isn’t an individual effort, but a collective response. As a result, team bonuses were favoured by those asked over individual payments. However, this still leaves the issue that if payment only comes after results how do you incentivise the teachers to work in challenging schools in the first place? In the 1970s it was through the Schools of Exceptional Difficulty payments that were added to basic salary for working in schools identified as challenging.
Of course, you could take another tack and try and hide the issue by creating a fuss about something else, such as the role of teacher associations, as the Education lead at one of the conservative think tanks has done ahead of the teacher conferences this Easter. It might keep the right-wing Tory press happy, but my guess is most other members of the 4th estate will still be focussing on issues such as teacher supply that are likely to be to the fore during the conference season.