The weekend started off with me attempting to trawl through the day’s tweets. There seemed to be an increasing number of tweets advertising various posts with Mathematics, English and Science, as ever, increasingly over represented.
My eye was also caught by the TES article, Heads Call for New “Golden Handshake” to Attract Teachers
I can’t think of a time when I have ever disagreed with ASCL’s statement or comments on an issue. However, this seemed like a panicked sticking plaster type approach which is so unusual for the association. ASCL normally provides a considered long term view of how to get us out of the mess we are in; rather than suggesting we shift the chairs around on the Titanic.
All schools are likely to be affected by the current lack of people joining the profession and crucially staying in it. The deployment of good and outstanding teachers from high performing MATs, assuming they have the capacity to allow them to leave, won’t cover up the gaps that are appearing in the system. The incentives mentioned in the TES article about paying off a teacher’s student loan fees or providing accommodation costs won’t solve the problem. With austerity likely to hit schools’ budgets after the election and the economy improving it is unlikely education will win a financial tug-of-war with the business world.
It’ll Get Worse Before it Gets Better
There is a two pronged demographic time bomb ticking away in education. The mini baby boom of the 1960s, with one million babies born in the UK in 1964, will see a significantly higher number of experienced colleagues due to retire between 2015 and 2025.
With changes to the pension rules being gradually introduced over the coming years many of these 1960’s baby boomers may decide to retire early on financial grounds. They may also decide to retire because they are tired; tired of the pernicious accountability, lack of autonomy and limited respect shown by politicians. They are not being replaced in anything like the numbers they are leaving in.
The second prong of the demographic time bomb relates to the increasing number of children who will enter and be in the education system over the next decade. The statistics below are from the 2011 census and relate to England though the same trend is seen across the United Kingdom.
If you roll these figures on four years the 0-4 age group have already entered primary school with a further 350,000 places needed plus any as a consequence of net migration. There are further rises to come at a primary level. In four years time secondary schools will experience a massive increase in pupil numbers. All this means we will require more and more teachers or a massive increase in class size to cope.
Every Child Needs a Good Teacher
Greater competition for teachers may benefit some individual teachers financially but won’t provide the systemic response which is required. Some schools will win and other schools lose as there is a scrabble for the increasingly scarce resource that is the teacher. Whilst some will view this as positive, increase in some teachers’ salaries, or inevitable, it’s the economics of supply and demand, I find it unacceptable. Every child deserves a good teacher to teach them. We need to reframe our thinking.
The Secretary of State should be responsible and held fully accountable for the supply of high quality teachers into the profession and the retention of those already in it. It should be her/his core responsibility and pre-occupation. If you check out Sam Freedman’s blog, The Birth of a Zombie Statistic, I calculate about a quarter of teachers who qualified to teach either didn’t enter teaching or had left by the end of the first year. If my Maths is holding up that is about 18,000 qualified teachers lost; enough to teach about 400, 000 children. A crying shame, a national tragedy or both in my book.
It’s time to get serious about the recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders. I’m not going to say much more about this now except Vision 2040 (#Vis2040) will be launched by the SSAT this Thursday.
I’ll have a few highlights and the option to download the pamphlet available on the blog by the evening. It’s time to move our eyes to the horizon and deal with the deep rooted issues which are turning people away from the profession. I still believe it’s the best job in the World. The titanic struggle for teacher supply has only just begun. Until then we will just keep shifting the chairs around the deck.
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