The Education Select Committee published its report on teacher recruitment and retention today. I’m increasingly impressed with the work the committee is doing led by its Chair, Neil Carmichael MP.
In what was an eminently sensible report, I would suggest that a national entitlement for CPD that is checked by Ofsted is not the way to go. It runs the danger of exacerbating problems rather than helping alleviate them. In essence you have a centrally driven policy imposed on schools with the enforcer Ofsted sent in to make sure it’s happening.
Two of the causes of many of the current retention issues are: centrally driven policy and Ofsted. Both the government and the regulator are guilty of causing excessive workload; more of the same won’t make things better. In a system of high stakes accountability and imposition of policy, it’s not surprising that teachers get fed up and move on. Graduates look at the lack of agency and home/work balance; choosing other professions or careers. In the current climate; with a pernicious culture, too many school leaders are exacerbating the workload problems.
Sometimes you’ve got to tip things on their head and get radical. Not only should the government give at least a year’s lead-in for new initiatives but there should be no new initiatives until we’ve worked through all the massive changes to the curriculum and assessment system at primary, secondary and post-16. There’s enough work here to keep teachers busy for a few years yet.
It’s time to pare back both Ofsted and the DfE; too much time and money is being spent on things which have too little impact on pupils’ life chances. The list of things that add up to a waste of time and money is growing: inspecting good schools (just let them get on with it), new grammar schools, National Citizen Service, performance related pay, academisation and bursaries (with unbelievably no tie in or requirement to teach).
Addressing the causes of a lack of retention and recruitment – a reduction of externally imposed change and excessive accountability – will lead to a reduction in workload. More time would be available for productive professional development. The teachers who are in receipt of this would also stay around to utilise it in the class room. Consequentially, recruitment needs are drastically reduced. You end up in a positive cycle.
We’re about to consult on reducing contact time for all teachers across the Trust by about an hour a week in return for an enhanced commitment to their own personal professional development; looked at another way about six days per year. Examples of things that might form part of a person’s professional development are:
- Quality of Teaching & Learning Coaching
- Lesson study with other colleagues
- Formative lesson observations (three spaced over time) with follow up focussed professional development on an identified aspect of practice.
- Research Fellows
- Making a Difference Projects – focussed on improving pupils’ outcomes from an accredited leadership course
- External Accredited Courses/Masters Degree
I’ve built three “non-negotiables” into the system. Everything else is pretty much up for discussion and agreement:
- There is verifiable evidence produced of the professional development undertaken (I don’t want anything onerous but a sharing of professional learning is a must).
- The increased professional development time correlates positively with improved outcomes for pupils (causation may be more difficult to show but I’ll accept correlation for now).
- The reduction in teaching time is affordable within the budget (we know it is for the next few years but need to have a long term backstop, just in case).
I don’t need a national entitlement for CPD driven by government. I get the importance of developing staff. What I need is a profound cultural change in the way we do things in education; I remain ever optimistic that one day we’ll see the light.