IT HAS been widely reported that we have a teacher-recruitment crisis.
‘Oh, no we don’t!’ claims the government.
‘Oh, yes we do!’ respond the teacher unions.
And, for once, it really does look as though the unions have got it right.
An internal government email leaked to the TES (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) admits that ‘challenges in teacher supply have worsened’. The number of teachers fell, albeit slightly (1.2 per cent), during 2016-17, the latest year for which there is data. A major challenge is, therefore, facing the Department for Education. Secondary school pupil numbers are forecast to rise by 534,000, around 20 per cent, between 2107 and 2026. An extra 47,000 teachers will be needed to cope with this increase.
Publicly, of course, the Government is in denial that there is a problem. It points out that in 2018 the number of recruits for teacher training were slightly up on 2017. Generous bursaries – aka ‘bribes’ – are slightly boosting the number of punters. Unfortunately, according to a Times survey, 11 per cent of bursary recipients either reject a teaching career altogether or do not end up in a state school. The higher the bursary received, the more this is likely to be the case.
The very lowest estimate of bursary money wasted on trainees between 2009 and 2016 who did not end up in a maintained school classroom is £44million. The real figure is almost certainly a great deal higher since the calculations were based on the lowest bursaries (£4,000) not the highest (£25,000-plus). One hears that even DfE officials acknowledge, privately, that bursaries can be a ‘nice little earner’ for those with enough ‘nous’ to play the system.
The sad truth is that, too often, teacher recruitment in the UK has been about scraping the barrel and offering sweeteners. In contrast, the world’s best performing school systems accept only the brightest and the best of graduates. Singapore, for example, recruits its teachers from its academic top third and has an acceptance rate of one in eight. Closer to home, Finland’s high-flying school system rejects 93 per cent of primary school teaching applicants.
Things could hardly be more different here. Not only have we been scraping the barrel for years, the leaked DfE email suggests that even deeper barrel-scraping is seen as the way forward. Contractors are to be invited to bid for a research contract exploring the extent to which teaching assistants can be persuaded to become teachers. Given that teaching assistants and other ancillary staff now constitute 53 per cent of staffing in schools, this has some obvious attractions – an army of potential recruits on site. What is more, support staff are much easier to recruit than teachers. They do not need any specific qualification, although teaching assistant diplomas are available and can be taken online.
So, what’s not to like? Replace difficult-to-recruit graduate teachers with easier-to-recruit classroom assistants. A bit of top-up training may be necessary and, it is true, some classroom assistants are well-qualified and could, indeed, make excellent teachers. These are, however, a minority.
The army, too, has a recruitment crisis and has come up with a poster campaign based on senseless, directionless and pitiful slogans. They are ‘focus-driven’ and’ target-driven’, intended to appeal to the mindset of school-leavers:
SNOW FLAKES: YOUR ARMY NEEDS YOU AND YOUR COMPASSION
SELFIE ADDICTS: YOUR ARMY NEEDS YOU AND YOUR CONFIDENCE
PHONE ZOMBIES: YOUR ARMY NEEDS YOU AND YOUR FOCUS
Potential recruits to teaching, however, could do with something a little more honest and rather more suited to the real battlefield these days – classrooms up and down the country. Having taught for 35 years I can say without fear or favour that this once great profession needs to face up to some hard truths.
There are employment opportunities in the teaching profession
Make a difference!
If you are idealistic and seek an opportunity to solve all of society’s problem this could make the perfect career choice for you.
Is the promotion of gender diversity and the eradication of gender-specific pronouns important to you?
Are you prepared to use the curriculum as a vehicle for social change?
Do you believe that the curriculum is too white, stale and male?
Are you aware that all women and all racial minorities are oppressed?
Do you hate the Tories?
Do you hate grammar schools and private schools?
Are you ashamed of Britain’s imperial past?
Are you ready to teach children about the folly of Brexit?
Do you believe in child-centred learning backed up by lots of classroom assistants?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions you should consider teaching as a career.
To qualify you require a ‘good pass’ in GCSE English and in mathematics (15 per cent for mathematics GCSE 2017 and 21 per cent for 2018)
A degree in any subject
One year’s teacher training in political correctness
Bursaries of up to £28,000 now available but with no obligation to become a teacher.
Unqualified and looking for an alternative way into teaching?
Experience of being a classroom assistant may allow other qualifications and training to be bypassed.
Ability to read, write and add up will be helpful but recruits to the profession can be assured that grade boundaries in public examinations will be manipulated to cover up an alleged failure by the profession.
Candidates are advised that a safe working environment cannot be guaranteed. Random violence by pupils and parents towards you should be embraced as a learning opportunity.
What others say
‘If we give [children] a proper education . . . we’ll probably not have any Tories because we will have brought up our kids properly’
– Sion Rickard, a teaching assistant, at the Labour Party Conference 2018
‘All our kids are brilliant’
– Sally Collier, head of Ofqual, the Government’s exam standards watchdog