Emma Hollis, Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers sheds light on the issues around teacher recruitment and retention
With issues around teacher recruitment and retention going way beyond discussions in staff rooms and school corridors and into the public eye, those of us at the heart of teacher training are being increasingly consulted by politicians, policymakers and civil servants on how this ongoing crisis can possibly be addressed.
Figures published by the Department for Education last summer showed that teacher vacancies have risen sharply by 26% in the past year, with 920 vacancies for full-time permanent teachers in state-funded schools, up from 730 the year before. The nub of the challenge is how can we ensure that we have a sustained and quality, teacher workforce that meets the needs of schools and our children? Sounds simple, but unfortunately it isn’t. Plummeting morale, pay and budgetary restraints, stress and challenging working conditions are all having an impact on teachers; many are being driven out of the profession and fewer are choosing to enter it in the first place.
So, what can be done? Our members, primarily School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) providers, School Direct Lead Schools and Teaching Schools, are critical to making sure we have those teachers available and supporting excellent provision. In the 2017 Good Teacher Training Guide, 8 of the top 10 providers of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in the country are SCITTs and we must build on that success.
Latest figures also show that more than half of postgraduate trainees take school-led routes into the profession. A higher proportion of final-year trainees on school-led routes achieved Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), 93%, compared with 90% on university-led routes. They were also more likely to get a job than their university-trained peers, with 96% of those awarded QTS in a teaching post within 6 months.
However, whilst teacher training is routinely presented as an ‘either/or’ choice between school-led and university-led provision, these artificial and unhelpful distinctions between different kinds of training provision should be forgotten. The reality is SCITTs, universities, Teach First and School Direct providers have long worked together.
We are supportive of a simplification of the teacher training system and continue to encourage greater partnership working. Any plans for strengthened QTS, for example, should include scope for collaboration between schools, SCITTs and universities in planning and delivering the early career professional development to build on the excellent foundations being achieved. So, what might this look like in practice?
Our vision is for a revised 3-year postgraduate teacher training route. In year 1, we would have school-based practice focusing on pedagogy and relationship building to help teacher trainees become ready to ‘hit the ground running’ in their Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year. We would look at the realities of the classroom, practical advice on class management, curriculum planning, time management, marking and feedback and subject knowledge for teaching. As is now the case, QTS would be awarded at the end of this year.
In year 2, during the NQT year, time would be set aside for academic study with a focus on reflection. At this point, they have some ‘practice’ to reflect on and can assimilate the theory behind many of the practical techniques they will already be aware of. NQTs would be exposed to ways of thinking that might differ from those they have been exposed to in school and will widen perspectives from a place of practical knowledge.
In year 3, teachers will have a sense of what interests them, what type of teacher they are or would like to become. They would use this year to focus on a research area which either meets their personal interests or a need within their school. Funded time would be given to write a dissertation exploring this area of interest, this could contribute towards Master’s qualification or Chartered Teacher Status and thus feed back into the system research carried out by a practising teacher based on real-life examples which support their hypotheses.
Yet there is a bigger picture – and this is what we now need from the UK government. Firstly, a recognition that access to high-quality professional development for teaching staff, both in their early careers and throughout their working lives, should be an entitlement and not a lottery based on whether the school in which they happen to work values professional development. Secondly, sufficient funding for schools to allow their staff the time they need to develop their knowledge and skills and become well-rounded, highly educated and respected professionals. Thirdly, support for the Chartered College of Teaching which is seeking to develop a Chartered Status for the profession and which needs the continued support of the government. Finally, a commitment to allowing sufficient lead-in time for policy changes to avoid uncertainty and confusion within the system.
National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)
Tel: +44 (0)1933 627 049