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Reflections on teacher supply and teaching quality

12 Aug

A school or academy is only as good as the quality of teaching that is experienced by the pupils.   Research has borne that out.   To achieve good quality teaching, schools and academies need first to have teachers and second good teaching.  However, teacher shortages continue to bug the body politic.

Government has recognised that there is a shortage of good teachers and the problem is not going away any time soon.   The fact that the former Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, published in January 2019 The recruitment and retention strategy is an implicit acknowledgement that the problem exists.  It is unlikely to be resolved speedily for a host of reasons.  However, there are a few measures schools and academies can take to make teaching more pleasurable for the pupils so that they will want to attend as well as their teachers and support staff.  This could attract more young people into pedagogy.

Meanwhile, what are the contributory factors to teacher shortages?

(1)        First, inordinate pressures are placed on teachers to make pupils perform consistently well.   These pressures stem from national and international competition.   Schools and academies are constantly compared to one another and to institutions.

(2)        Second, the inspection regimen has (until now) focused narrowly on pupils’ test and examination results, albeit, Amanda Spielman, HMCI, is moving from concentrating on results to the quality of education.    She wants institutions to consider the “hows”, “whys” and “whens” of what they teach rather than endlessly chasing and analysing data that take the soul out of education and leave teachers burnt out.

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DfE signals its intent to tackle teacher shortages

18 Apr

I        Some hard facts

Schools and academies are suffering budget reductions in real terms causing trustees, governors and headteachers to consider staff reductions.  These difficulties are being exacerbated by teacher shortages.

Recent recruitment and retention statistics showed that the teaching profession was a profession in crisis. In 2017, nearly 35,000 teachers left the profession for reasons other than retirement, with four in 10 teachers quitting within their first year of qualification.

It’s not hard to see why.  Horror stories continue to proliferate of dedicated teachers suffering burnout and leaving the profession.  Here are some facts.

(1)        20% of teachers feel tense about their jobs most or all the time compared with 13% of those in similar professions.

(2)        41% of teachers are dissatisfied with the amount of leisure time they have compared with 32% of those in similar professions.

(3)        23% of full-time teachers would like to reduce their working hours even if it meant taking a pay cut, compared with 17% of those in similar professions.

(4)        The pay of average teachers fell by 12% since 2010 in real terms.

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Teacher shortages threaten quality education

4 Jan

A school/academy is only as good as the quality of teaching. The quality of teaching, in turn, is predicated on the requirement that each institution has sufficient teachers.   At present, the country is haemorrhaging teachers faster than replacing them, which is having a debilitating effect on schools and academies.  The main reason for this appears to be the workload that teachers have been having to undertake over the last decade or so.  The cost of housing in London and the South-East of the United Kingdom is another factor that is exacerbating the situation for institutions located in these areas.

Thousands of talented teachers have upped sticks and gone abroad to use their talents.  They have been lapped up by other countries.   Two cases exemplify the experience of many.

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Andria Zafirakou, Alperton Community School, bags the Global Teacher Award

20 Apr

I        Ms Zafirakou’s pedagogic journey and achievements

The Global Teacher Prize in 2018 was won by Ms Andria Zafirakou, an art and textile teacher at Alperton Community School in the London Borough of Brent.  She was deemed to be the best – having been pitted against 30,000 entrants from 173 countries.

The odds were stacked against her succeeding, but Andria defied them. Working as an art and textiles teacher and member of the senior leadership team, she was tasked with earning the trust of her pupils and their families and understanding the complex lives they led.  She redesigned the curriculum across all subjects from scratch – carefully working alongside other teachers – to have it resonate with her pupils. She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir and created alternative timetables to allow girls–only sports that would not offend conservative communities, leading the girls’ cricket team to win the McKenzie Cup.

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Teacher shortage, which threatens educational provision, set to worsen

20 Apr

I        The realities

It’s official. We are in the midst of a teacher shortage.  The situation is bleak. The future is likely to be even bleaker.  Research by the Times Educational Supplement (6 April 2018) has revealed that we will need 47,000 extra high school teachers by 2024 – i.e. 22.5% more than we have at present – to educate the increasing number of pupils coming through the system, owing the primary bulge working its way through into the secondary sector.

The primary sector is better placed. From a low of 196,400 teachers in 2010, the number increased to 222,300 in 2016, the most recent figure available.   This teacher increase has kept pace with the rise in pupil numbers from 3,947,450 in 2009 to 4,479,325 in 2016.  The primary population has stabilised and is likely to remain as it is in the years to come, but who can predict demographic shifts or whether the nation can become more amorous.  Also, to get to the 2005 pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of 20.1 the nation will have to add another 8,000 teachers by 2024 at a time when the applications from people wanting to train as teachers is drying up – dropping by 26%.

There are no grounds for complacency.  The apparent optimistic scene at primary level has not compensated for the decrease in the secondary sector, where the number of teachers fell from 222,400 in 2009 to 208,100 in 2016.   If the government is to maintain the PTR of 15.1 which was the case in 2005, the number of teachers must be increased by 47,000 to 254,822 – according to the TES research.

The problem has been exacerbated by a fall in the number of 18-year-olds – the potential pool from which youngsters can be lured into the profession with appropriate training.  In 2018, the number of 18-year-olds in England fell by 2.3% compared with 2017.   This was in line with a drop of 2% of the total number of 18-year-olds applying to study further in higher education.

Further, the short-fall figure of 47,000 does not take account of teachers leaving the profession or moving abroad to teach in British schools or English-medium ones.  The National Audit Office (NAO) reported that several qualified teachers leaving state schools before the official retirement age was rising.  It increased from 9.3% in 2011 to 9.9% in 2016.  Even though more teachers were returning to take up employment in state schools during that time, they were insufficient to compensate.

The situation in Modern Foreign Languages (MFLs) is dire.  The DfE set a target to recruit 1,500 foreign language teachers in 2018.   However, 6,200 (circa) degree holders graduate with at least a low second class honours each year graduate each year.  To hit that target, the country must persuade 24.2% of these graduates to go into teaching to meet demand from schools/academies.

If the situation didn’t already look dire, it’s thrown into starker relief by the existing monumental recruitment challenge facing some subjects. While MFL teachers are conspicuous by their absence, in mathematics the situation is worse: 40% of the graduates who must become teachers.  In English, 17% of all graduates with relevant degrees need to train as teachers.

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Two teacher unions wed to become the National Education Union

18 Aug

On 1 September 2017, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers joined to become one in holy matrimony, forming the National Education Union (NEU).  The purpose of such a move was to strengthen the hands of rank-and-file teachers following the systematic emasculation of both, the unions and local education authorities (LAs).  The teacher unions and LAs are strange bedfellows in that both have seen their powers weakened considerably with the creation of academies and free schools.   The NUT-ATL marriage is an attempt to change the state of play.

The NEU has brought together the majority of the 457,300 full-time equivalent teachers in England.   Some members have campaigned over recent years to unite all the teacher unions.  The creation of the NEU is the culmination of those attempts.

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‘NowTeach’ seeks to lure industrial compatriots into teaching

1 Jan

I        Teacher recruitment crisis

The number of teachers leaving the profession has increased by 11% over three years according to a report from the National Audit Office. The shortfall in teachers has been exacerbated by ministers failing to hit their recruitment targets for four consecutive years (despite a £700m annual bill for their efforts). More secondary school classes are being taught by teachers without relevant post-A-Level qualifications in their subjects – especially in physics.

When The Guardian did a straw poll of teachers, one told reporters, “With fewer teachers in certain subjects, some teachers have had to move over to a different department or straddle more than one. This can be a good thing if you have a brilliant teacher who can pick up a topic quickly but, more often than not, a teacher is being asked to slide into a different teaching area and offered no support.

“Maths is my subject and I know a great deal of Maths teachers without a degree. I am not saying this is the worst thing, but not having an A-level in Maths is certainly a problem for most of them. Those teachers tend to be the ones trotting out the same error-filled lessons and are understandably scared and insecure when confronted with their own lack of expertise.”

A headteacher said: “We now have a situation where it’s so hard to find a good head of department in certain subjects that if you promote someone to an assistant headship, for example, you have to ask them (sic) to continue doing their (sic) old job too. So someone might be a head of department and an assistant head and teach a 90% timetable. This is driving people out as it puts them under so much pressure.”

A member of the leadership team at another school remarked: “A shortage of teachers means that those higher up in the profession don’t have time to help less-qualified teachers. Students as well as teachers are being let down because of it.  When there’s an observation or a department is being inspected, your heart sinks because you know certain teachers aren’t going to be perceived as good enough.  This is especially the case when you have a supply or agency teacher in as they (sic) tend to get even less support.

“Inconsistency is, therefore, a big issue.  In certain subjects that are harder to recruit for, you might have 10-15 staff members of varying standards and levels of training and support. It’s probably true that none of them gets enough support.  I have waited more than six months to get feedback from a lesson observation by an assistant headteacher – by the time I got it, it was worse than useless.”

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