For the last 18 months there has been a gap between government ministers’ pronouncements on teacher recruitment and the experience of headteachers and governors trying to recruit. Today some light was shone by the National Audit Office on why there is a discrepancy. Alongside the increasing drop out rate and increasing school roles, the DfE’s Supply Model may not be accurate. In the words of the report, “The risk of it generating incorrect trainee recruitment targets remains significant”
Another point to note from the report is retention of NQTs has been stable over the last few years whilst the overall number of teachers leaving from 2011 to 2014 rose by 11%. This is evidence that the teaching profession is losing experienced staff – great news for the Treasury but a disaster for pupils. A teaching career is a journey that requires dedication, skill and intelligence to understand and challenge pupils. New teachers bring enthusiasm and energy but schools need to balance that intake with experienced staff whose professional skills have been honed.
The report charts the rise of Teach First which as a charity provides schools with high flying graduates. This is a great initiative in the short-term but the scheme is not designed to deliver staff who develop over a long time into outstanding, experienced professionals. The whole point of Teach First is that the graduates leave after two years.
What the government has lost is the sense of the importance of aspiration to and within the profession. Fewer people want to teach and fewer young teachers want to follow the path of their experienced colleagues. No amount of marketing activity will have the impact of teachers telling their friends that they love their work.
Reading the report leaves no doubt that the crisis of teacher recruitment is real at local and national levels. What is perhaps most worrying is the impression that no one in government actually has accurate information upon which to base decisions.Policy that is driven by faith in an unproven system based on market ideology is putting the future attainment (and life opportunities) of pupils at risk and undermining the hard fought success of a significant number of schools.