Tomorrow the House of Commons Education Select Committee resumes its hearings into the question of teacher supply. This inquiry started in the autumn, so it is two days short of six months since the last public evidence session. Much has happened in that time, as readers of this blog with know; not least the NAO report and the White Paper, where Chapter 2 concentrates on the question of teachers without really providing much that was new in policy terms.
If, as I expect, the Committee members are on the ball, to use a footballing metaphor ahead of Euro 2016, they will ask the witnesses, some from the subject associations and others from higher education, the school sector and Ofsted, how much of an understanding the DfE really has of the issue of teacher supply?
Some possible questions the might ask could include:
Why are there too many PE teachers and too few business studies teachers being trained if the Teacher Supply Model is doing its job properly?
Given that by the Workforce Census date in November all pupils are being taught for the correct amount of time each week, how do we deal with the consequences of accumulated teacher shortages in a particular subject.
For the representative of DATA, how are possible shortages spread out among the different component parts of the D&T curriculum. Are there greater shortages of say food technology teachers than those with expertise in resistant materials? The same question might be applied to a representative from the languages area, but as there isn’t one it might as well be addressed to the Ofsted witness about the data they collect on subject knowledge and how teachers actually spend their time teaching.
Is the present squeeze on budgets affecting the demand for teachers and who would know if it was? How long would any slowdown in demand take to affect the supply side of the equation and could it leave more trainees with an extra £9,000 of fee debt, but no teaching job in England? If they took a teaching job overseas presumably the Treasury wouldn’t see any repayments during the period of time a teacher was outside the country.
There are lots more questions the Committee could, and no doubt will, ask tomorrow. I hope they do dis cuss the issue of primary teachers and subject knowledge as this is often overlooked. There was a useful APPG report on RE teaching a few years ago now that showed how little time a PGCE student had on developing their subject knowledge. This may also be true in other subjects and is a concern for those teaching at Key Stage 2. Are MATs, with an exchange of teachers between primary and secondary schools, a possible way forward? Will technology help with the brightest pupils or is it off-putting?
The Committee could also ask about part-time working in the secondary sector since that has risen up the agenda recently, but I doubt any of the witnesses will have much evidence on the matter, even if they have an opinion.
Finally, I hope someone will ask about the government’s idea of a national vacancy web site mentioned in the White Paper and whether TeachVac is not already providing such a service to schools, trainees and teachers at no cost as a public service, especially now TeachVac has launched its free job portal for schools.