I was lucky to be able to attend the recent ASE Professional Learning conference at the University of Hertfordshire.
An incredible line up of speakers which included Professor Shirley Simon, Brian Cartwright HMI, Professor Jonathan Osborne and Sir Andrew Carter had been organised for the attendees and much conversation was generated as a result.
One of the recurring themes was the difficulties ITT providers are having recruiting their full allocation of trainees. One of the particular shortage areas was for chemistry graduates (Teach First and PGCE/School Direct at Reading)
A possible solution to this was suggested- to attract more graduates, why not give them greater opportunities to continue their research work ...
This made me wonder why this wasn't available to ALL teachers from ALL phases at ANY stage of their career. When I did a little reading up of this, I found that Sir Michael Wilshaw had actually suggested this ( see here ) as far back as 2011 (!) However, I don't know any teachers who have been afforded this opportunity. Perhaps if sabbaticals were available, fewer teachers would be leaving as a reult of exhaustion / burn out. (Teacher drop out stats here and here)
So, perhaps one way of keeping teachers in the classroom for longer would be to give opportunities for teachers to have time away from their post (no one would expect to be paid for this; that would be too much to ask, but for the job to be held for them shouldn't be too much of a problem, surely?) to carry out research, try something new...
I can see the arguments that school leaders would immediately throw this way:
All our best teachers will go
What if they don't come back?
What if others want to go too?
BUT how about looking at it a different way... Take on newer (cheaper) teachers, teachers will come back with new skills/enthusiam/ renewed energy... Perhaps something that could be offered once teachers had been in post for (say) four years with a commitment to returning at the end or giving an extended notice period to enable schools to find a replacement?
Sir Andrew Carter (review here ) spoke at length about ITT and made all sorts of suggestions such as all schools should be involved with ITT in order to be classed as good or better, and that the whole organisation of schools should be looked at. (A possible model suggested was a class of 60 with one teacher with QTS, a couple of TAs and a couple of trainee teachers- much intake of breath when this was muted in front of a lecture hall mostly of science teachers trying to imagine practical science with that number!)
The facts are clear; fewer graduates are entering ITT, greater numbers than ever are leaving the profession. ( April 2015 Guardian ) It might not yet be a crisis, but it will be if something is not done sooner than later.
Some ideas (non exhaustive!) - Comments welcomed:
1. Offer a guaranteed CPD programme that goes beyond the NQT year - put the money into school budgets which are already squeezed.
2. Ensure that ITT gives an excellent grounding in behaviour management, SEND provisions, Assessment, pedagogy and subject knowledge and plenty of opportunities for trainees to meet with practicing teachers (and for schools with mentors to be properly funded in order for them to have the time to spend with the trainees)
3. Stop media bashing of the profession
4. Bring back protection for teachers with UPS to facilitate movement (many pay policies make explicit that teachers will not be taken on beyond M6 regardless of experience which disadvantages those with UPS as they have to take a pay cut when moving)
5. Ensure teachers get at least a cost of living enhancement each year ( 2015 budget )
6. Get rid of Ofsted (OK, I know that wont happen. There ARE changes to the system and there is a list of myths to help schools understand the requirements ( here ) but there are so many inconsistencies that this remains a HUGE concern to schools.
Bottom line, teaching IS a great job. Working with children is a tremendous privilege. Recognise the dedication , commitment and professionalism of the teaching force.
Endangered can be turned around...
"What office is there which involves more responsibility, which requires more qualifications , and which ought, therefore, to be more honorable than teaching?"