Every which way you turn, there are experts queuing up to comment on the skills shortages in teaching. Whether that’s one of the many teaching unions advocating on behalf of their members, headteachers struggling to recruit to a teaching position in their school or even Ofsted gaining national press coverage. So are there skills shortages and is there a teaching crisis?
Numerous different surveys and research, on behalf of the Department of Education, the teaching unions or even the TES all show significant recruitment problems for maths and English teachers with science teachers not far behind. This is not just NQTs but recruitment for more senior teaching posts such as Heads of Departments. It’s occurring at primary schools as well as secondary schools. There is a slight bias to teaching shortages in London and the South East but other areas such the North West also have issues with teacher recruitment. Even the East Midlands is not immune.
There seems to be no one cause, just a multitude of issues
i. Complexity of teacher training. How many different routes (and acronyms) are there? From PGCE or Schools Direct to SCITT or degree plus QTS or even Teach First.
ii. The amount of student loan debt incurred during training against the salaries earned whilst teaching
iii. Ofsted (the pressures on teachers, from heads and school governors to ensure lesson plans, schemes of work and even marking systems meet Ofsted requirements is immense)
iv. Workload, increased workload and then even more workload
v. League tables (need I say more!)
Solutions are being offered from all angles, fast and furiously.
ASCL one of the teaching unions is suggesting multi-academy trusts “loan out” good and outstanding teachers to schools in areas with staff shortages where the new school pays teaching supplements and potential travel or/and accommodation costs for these teachers.
Think tank, Policy Exchange has suggested that the government offer incentives to new teachers to help them repay their student loans early.
The government has already announced a pilot scheme for maths and physics students to receive £15,000 bursaries to support university study costs if they become a school teacher for at least three years after graduating.
Alan Milburn the government’s social mobility champion is promoting a 25% pay rise for teachers to work in challenging schools funded from university access agreement funds.
So what’s the answer to the teacher shortage?
A cohesive joined up education strategy to tackle this issue is needed rather than a myriad of tactical solutions. This needs to be agreed between the Department of Education, Ofsted and head teachers and welcomed and worked with by teaching unions, teachers and schools governors, rather than each of these groups fighting to put their solution top of the agenda.
Whatever the answer, the student’s learning, to grow and develop as an individual needs to be at the very core, the very heart of teaching. Otherwise teaching shortages will be a crisis that just keeps getting bigger and deeper. ICT and digital skills are already highlighted as a new skills shortage. What is next?