The Social Mobility Commission Report published earlier today is quite hard hitting on education. Gilliam Shephard, a former Conservative Secretary of State for Education is the Commission’s deputy chair, so this cannot be seen as just a rant from left-wing pro-local authority supporters. The full report can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/569410/Social_Mobility_Commission_2016_REPORT_WEB__1__.pdf
A key recommendation in the section on schools relates to teachers.
Recommendation 2: The Government should fundamentally reform the process which recruits and distributes new teachers across the country.
The school-led approach to teacher training is not working to get the quality and numbers of teachers into the schools that need them most. The Government should introduce a new national system which acts as a front end for school led initial teacher training programmes and which provides central marketing, applications, screening and first stage recruitment processes (initial interviews). A system along these lines would provide economies of scale and would mean that teaching could better compete with other top professions in presenting a high quality marketing offer. The provider of this service could work with school partners to develop a process matching schools to candidates, heavily involving the schools themselves and ensuring a fair distribution of quality candidates.
This is the first serious criticism of the school-led approach to teacher preparation, and it is based not upon the quality of the training, but on how it works in practice. As the Commission say in the recommendation quoted above, it doesn’t get (sic) the quality and numbers of teachers in the schools that need them most.
The Commission didn’t mention the large sums spent on recruitment of teachers – £200 million on leadership recruitment was mentioned in the research published last Friday – and the lack of a coherent regional policy in preference for teacher preparation places being allocated in either schools or providers rated as of high quality even where they don’t deliver recruits into the schools that need them.
Regular readers will know that at this point I will mention TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk that has for the past two years been offering a free recruitment site to the teaching profession. The aims of TeachVac were to provide high quality data about how the labour market works in real time and also to help schools reduce the cost of recruitment in order to allow more money to be spent on teaching and learning. TeachVac is effectively already offering part of the Commission’s vision and are happy to work with others to provide the whole process.
The Commission has other recommendations, including re-inventing the Schools of Exceptional difficulty Allowance of the 1970s whereby teachers were paid more to work in specific schools. The Commission should note that it has to be schools and not local authority areas else teachers at Kendrick School and Reading School would benefit from an area based scheme. Neither school has difficulty attracting staff for the reasons the Commission consider affect the outcome of children from deprived backgrounds in Reading.
Overall, this is an important report that reinforces many of the messages about what has happened to education. The over-emphasis by governments on structures and not outcomes together with competition not cooperation has stalled and even reversed the drive towards social mobility. As the Commission says bluntly. Selective schools in greater numbers are not the answer, if they are at all.