Why Watch A Teacher?

How can we promote teaching excellence?

We are facing a teacher retention crisis

The government’s £300,000 planned campaign to tempt Maths and Physics teachers from Poland and the Czech Republic is the latest in a long line of attempts to plug the teacher shortage crisis. More recently it abandoned Nicky Morgan’s National Teaching Service which aimed to deploy outstanding teachers into needy areas in North West England, an area that Ofsted highlighted schools auctioning to recruit staff. Last year marked five years of the government failing to meet its own targets, after the highest number of teachers left the profession in a decade. The future isn’t much brighter, a recent survey indicates nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave the practice in the next five years.

Why are people leaving? We’re used to hearing about long hours and struggles with behaviour but recently the EPI has found educators in England to be working longer than most other countries, around a fifth working over a 60 hour week. Teachers are being asked to work harder and progress faster, but are operating in a system that often fails to celebrate them for the excellence in their practice. Career progression in teaching means leaving the classroom for a position in middle management or senior leadership, where roles are provisioned with less timetable to allow for more administrative tasks. Newly trained teachers are asked to strive to outstanding practice and then told to leave it behind if they want to progress. There is no meaningful recognition for those teachers who are masters of their craft.

Other educational systems prioritise the promotion of excellent teaching and design progression around pedagogy. PISA rank-topping Finland and Singapore both have specialist teacher roles that are well compensated. In Shanghai teachers can apply for a senior-grade rank, requiring them to undertake extra training to earn the promotion. The EPI report goes on to note that longer working hours are stopping teachers getting the time they need for development. Continuing professional development (CPD) is given 40 days of teacher time in Shanghai compared to an average of 4 days in England.

Watch A Teacher

How do we celebrate teaching and enable the excellence existing in schools to teach trainee teachers? Can we start a shift that changes the celebration of the teaching profession and keeps teachers in schools longer? The problem is complex and multifaceted, however, simple changes can spark the start of a cultural change.

Watch A Teacher catalogs teaching excellence

Watch A Teacher is a platform that takes short video clips of excellent teaching and spreads it around the school community. All schools encourage peer observation, but very few allocate any dedicated time towards it. Peer observation has been found by The Sutton Trust and the EEF to significantly improve teacher effectiveness, with current trials measuring the efficacy of video observation and coaching.

As well as enabling peer observation, Watch A Teacher is growing into a tool that enables video coaching and training at a distance. Trainees are always in need of more feedback and video supports vital self-reflection and external observation.

Summary

Watching other teachers teach means we both recognise excellent teachers for their practice and in turn re-model into our own context. Peer observation has been proven by multiple sources as effective means to improve teacher practice. Watch A Teacher combines peer observation with celebration of excellent teacher practice.

Government stop gaps are no longer the answer. Teach First — a program initially designed to be a temporary fix to the teacher shortage now accounts for a third of teacher recruitment for schools in low communities, however 57 percent of its participants leave teaching within three years. As Prof. G jones, Dean of Education at the University of Buckingham commented recently, “The solution requires schools to be more innovative and stop expecting government to solve the crisis”. Schools need tools to promote teacher excellence and help find time for effective CPD, only then will the tide of teachers leaving the classroom start to shift.