Teacher Shortages…News?

The select committees’ report “Recruitment and Selection of Teachers” published today is most welcome but its content is not really “news” at all, to those of us in, or closely connected to, the profession. Helen Scott, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Humanities explores.

Helen Scott, Dean of Faculty of Education and Humanities

Those involved in supporting the training and development of beginning teachers in higher education and schools have long known of the issues the report highlights-difficulties in attracting graduates in certain secondary subjects, in keeping teachers in the profession and the highly localised and severe challenges that some schools experience in trying to attract teachers to come to work at their schools. All of these difficulties are priorities to resolve and there are no easy solutions. However, in my view, the last one-of the regional difficulties in recruiting teachers would seem the highest. The reason for this is that those regions I write of are often some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged in the country. All children and young people deserve the best teachers, but those in primary and secondary schools in deprived areas more than most, if they are to fulfill their individual potential and succeed in the world. It cannot be beyond the wit of man or woman to design a teacher supply model and system which takes account of and addresses regional variations in need.

All children and young people deserve the best teachers, but those in primary and secondary schools in deprived areas more than most, if they are to fulfill their individual potential and succeed in the world.

I would strongly support (I don’t think you’ll find many teachers, ex-teachers, or teacher educators who wouldn’t-because that would be like being against creativity) the recommendations of the report. It is important to connect the recommendations though-none can be achieved in isolation and I repeat, none will provide the kinds of quick fixes that government ministers would like. For example, the teaching profession will not be better esteemed or more “attractive”, without significantly improving the daily working conditions of teachers. We also need to consult widely with teachers about what such improvements might mean to them-what would make a positive difference to them day to day? As also recommended in the report, the government needs to commit to continuing professional development for all teachers, at different stages. This cannot be a “once size fits all” (we’ve seen plenty of those before-well-intentioned perhaps, but usually unwieldy, expensive and too highly prescribed-many will remember the Masters in Teaching and Learning, late of this parish) and such an approach will not be cheap-but then neither is training thousands of teachers who leave the profession after a few years. We can only hope this particular re-telling in the report of what teachers have been saying for years will be listened to and acted upon, if even in part.

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