Every five years the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of mostly rich countries, runs the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). It asks teachers and school leaders a host of questions about their jobs with the aim of informing policy. Over 260,000 teachers and 15,000 schools in 28 countries took part in the 2018 TALIS survey, and today I sat on a panel hosted by the EPI to discuss its results.
As a 59 year-old who has only become a teacher in the last couple of years, one thing that particularly stood out was that England’s teachers and headteachers are amongst the youngest in the OECD, which makes Now Teach (where our average age is 51) something of a disruptor in the sector.
In England, the average age of teachers is 39 years old, while the average age of teachers across the other countries is 44 years old. Furthermore, only 18% of teachers in England are aged 50 and above, while the OECD average is 34%.
This could be a good thing; a younger workforce logically means people are further away from retirement and that we only need to replace about one in six people over the next decade or so. And age doesn’t necessarily map onto skill or competence.
However, we also know these younger people are not staying in teaching. In actual fact, a fifth of teachers plan to leave profession within two years and only 80 per cent of the required number of secondary trainees were recruited last year.
We are, without doubt, in the midst of a significant shortage and teachers are leaking at every stage of the career pipeline. We need to be doing everything we can to ensure that teachers are entering the classroom and staying put – experience counts. That’s why Now Teach was created: to recruit talented people who wanted to change career and teach.
Now Teach recruits obviously lack teaching experience when they start – they are trainees. However, they do have life experience and experience of another profession - they bring wisdom, perspective and careers advice. To the education system they bring knowledge of other sectors, fresh ideas and in time they may offer solutions to some of the more intractable problems our schools face.
In the past older trainees have dropped out of teaching at significantly higher rates than their younger peers. Now Teach trainees are bucking that trend by giving them a professional network of other career-changers who are facing exactly the same struggles and victories.
There’s no doubt that we must work to maintain the existing expertise within the teaching profession as we see more experienced teaching professionals leave. And Now Teach will do its bit to throw a bit more experience into the mix.