The publication today of the Report into teacher training from the Public Accounts Committee that arose out of their consideration of the National Audit Office Report published in February finally brings to an end a period of mounting concern over teacher supply, with the recognition that there is an issue to be resolved. Regular readers of this blog will recall that in a seminal post on the 14th August 2013, I wrote that ‘It is time for a radical overhaul of teacher preparation to really meet the needs of a 21st century education system.’ The post had been headed ‘scaremongering’ after the government had said there wasn’t a problem.
Even today, in their response to the PAC, the DfE spokesperson has rightly alluded to the fact that the government has upped its game; with better marketing, more bursaries and improved levels of recruitment: all true, but if these measures still have not solved the basic problem of not hitting correctly determined training targets, then what are the consequences for pupils in our schools? Asking that question has always been at the forefront of my attempts, now successful, to ensure teacher supply matters didn’t slip below the radar. The issue is now regularly discussed, but has still to be resolved.
At the heart of the matter was the long-standing debate about quality training versus training where it was needed most to address teacher supply concerns. Ideally, the answer was to create sufficient high quality places where they were most needed, but that just didn’t seem to happen, as the NAO’s Report showed in its table of training places per 100,000 pupils in each government region. The East of England, an area with a fast growing population, had barley half the number of training places as there were in London, this despite both regions have significant demands for new teachers.
Readers will know that although Ofsted can conduct surveys, as it has recently, my view is that nationally we need regular on-going management information on the labour market in schools whether for classroom teachers, middle leadership or for senior leadership posts. That’s why TeachVac www.teachvac.com was created.
Over the next few weeks the TeachVac team will analyse the results of the 2016 recruitment round for September and compare it with the 2015 round. The outcome should be reported by early July at the latest. By the next recruitment round we hope to be able to look at the labour market more widely as TeachVac collects data on posts at all levels and in all types of school.
The DfE now has a large team working on the teacher supply issue, but it probably needs some more senior staff at the policy level to become more involved with the issue. I don’t know who has responsibility at the DfE Board level, but if it isn’t an explicit responsibility then perhaps it ought to be.
As the Chief Inspector said, those that suffer most when there is a teacher supply problem aren’t those that can help themselves, but those without the least social or actual capital to remedy the situation. These pupils can be found in almost every school. As a result, teacher supply is a national problem that needs a national solution.