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Leadership, Redesigning Schools

Teacher Crisis: Deal with the Causes Not the Symptoms

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.

Photo Credit: Caveman Chuck Coker via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Caveman Chuck Coker via Compfight cc

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.

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “Teacher Crisis: Deal with the Causes Not the Symptoms

  1. Stephen, I am split on the Ofsted check up on teacher CPD. I hear what you are saying, but on the other hand, it will make it far more likely to happened in schools where the HT just does not get it.

    Posted by Clive taylor | February 22, 2017, 1:44 pm
    • Problem is in those schools the quality will be dire; another tick box to satisfy Ofsted. I just think we’ve got to go beyond Ofsted if we ever want a great education system for all children. They’ve largely done their bit (but I do understand your concern).

      Posted by LeadingLearner | February 22, 2017, 4:06 pm
      • Yep.
        That leaves us with “profound cultural shift”.
        See you on the barricades😂

        Serious point. How would you feel about a properly facilitated learning day for Stockport HTs in the Autumn or Spring 2018. Yes there would be a “keynote”, but it would be part of a really well planned day of learning with me, you and a couple of the HTs planning it?

        (One of my many gripes is the belief amongst many colleagues that CPD is about “inspirational” (easily forgotten, of no impact, but funny) set piece speeches)

        My mission in what remains of my career is to help e eryone understand that it needn’t be thus!

        My email is clive.taylor@stockport.gov.uk

        A refusal won’t offend😂

        Posted by Clive taylor | February 23, 2017, 8:38 am
  2. Great piece! Great idea!
    Can I enquire about point 2 of the non-negotiables:
    How swiftly would you expect to see raised outcomes after reducing the teaching time? Also, how would that be measured? Against Y11 results? If the initiative was introduced one year, surely by the end Y11 would have spend 4 out of 5 years under a different system, so how close a correlation between outcomes for students and increased time on CPD would you expect to see?
    Or would you measure the outcomes differently?
    Thank you!

    Posted by Jens Klingenstein | February 26, 2017, 11:00 am
    • In the first instance the outcomes will be against in-year class progress measures; think small scale specific targeted improvements following a specific intervention with a specific cohort of pupils. Over time I would expect the cumulative impact of this to be seen in Y6 SATs, GCSE & A-level. May take years. Correlation is relatively easy; we did CPD results went up/down/stayed the same. The issue I think you are referring to is causation; did the increased CPD affect results? Unlikely to be able to show this which was why I mentioned it at the end of point 2. Sometimes we just have to accept and live with the uncertainty. Hope this makes sense.

      Posted by LeadingLearner | February 26, 2017, 1:04 pm

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