The Department for Education’s announcements this week of 81 new Teaching School Hubs is to be welcomed. Along with the new Early Careers Framework they represent a real opportunity to improve training and recruitment in the sector. There has never been a more important time for all those - including Now Teach – who are striving to improve the recruitment and retention of teachers in this country.
Right now, with a spike in interest in teaching from graduates with few other options, we could be forgiven for taking our eye off the ball. We could sit back and watch the number of applicants rise as the economy sinks and be grateful for the recession’s silver lining which - as in 2008 – is making people think about teaching. But meeting the trainee teacher target for the first time in 8 years is not ‘mission accomplished’.
To think this would be a disaster.
After the 2008 recession there was no shortage of headlines proclaiming the end of the recruitment crisis. Not only did the spike in recruitment not last; research showed that those who joined the profession during the recession were the first to leave it when the markets began to recover. Until 2020 and since 2012, the gap between the number of teachers we need and the number of teachers we recruit had grown every year.
To ignore this would also be short-sighted.
Now, with divide between rich and poor growing, our children will need great teachers more than ever. And now, as education reinvents itself, we need people who have weathered storms in their working lives and who bring diverse skills.
Teacher Tapp (the app which surveys over 3,500 teachers every day) has shown exponential rises in anxiety levels since the pandemic began, particularly amongst headteachers. One can only assume that those teachers who had been thinking of leaving prior to the pandemic will wait to do so until there are other options. The general consensus in education is that there will be an exodus of headteachers.
And so we must focus on continuing to recruit and retain.
Now Teach brings later-stage career changers into teaching and supports them through their training and beyond to use their skills and experience for the benefit of schools and young people.
Recent data from Now Teachers shows that only half feel confident they would have stayed in teaching with our support. We will continue to offer that support, but the sector must alter some of the structural issues that make teaching such hard work. One of these areas is flexible work. We are glad that the DfE continues to promote flexible working in schools. Schools need to be supported to make the most of Covid’s remote-working revolution. Our report in 2019 with Timewise showed that teaching is behind the UK workforce in terms of part-time working rates (17% compared to the UK average of 27%). If schools want to attract and retain professionals from other sectors, they need to offer the flexible working that other employers increasingly provide.
Most economists predict a reasonably swift economic recovery. If they are right, then the role of those seeking to bring great people into teaching will be ever more critical in the years to come as interest in the profession drops off. Teachers have taken an ill-deserved media bashing at times in the past twelve months. We must all work to raise the status of teaching and improve the lives of those in the profession to ensure people stay in it for longer than they currently do.
But meeting the trainee teacher target for the first time in 8 years is not ‘mission accomplished’. To think this would be a disaster.