Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers. You get to make a difference to children's lives and prepare them for the future. Everyone has memories of teachers. Every doctor, teacher, solicitor, accountant, plumber and prime minister can tell you tales of what they learned in school.
But, if teaching is so rewarding, why are we facing a teacher recruitment and retention crisis?
The Education Select Committee demands urgent recruitment action from the government. Teachers are leaving schools at an astonishing rate. Between 2010 and 2015, 10,000 teachers moved on. A third of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years.
What are the causes of the teacher recruitment crisis?
Why are teachers searching for alternative careers? Some of the more common reasons include:
- teacher workload
- pay cuts and pay freezes
- lack of support from leadership teams
- government pressure/targets
With an ever-increasing focus on 'evidence and accountability', teachers feel more stress and less reward. Few teachers enter the profession because of a love for form-filling and meetings. Many teachers work late into the evening, and weekend working has become the norm.
It's no surprise that teachers are complaining of poor physical and mental health. The sick leave that results puts even more pressure on our budget-stretched schools.
In recent television and print adverts, the Department for Education highlights the rewards of a life in the classroom. Their message is true - being a teacher is brilliant, it's wonderful and it fills you with pride.
Why then, has the government failed to meet their recruitment targets for five years in a row?
Is the DfE in denial about the teacher recruitment crisis?
When asked about the teacher recruitment crisis, a Department for Education spokesman said,
“There are more teachers in England’s schools than ever before with secondary postgraduate recruitment at its highest since 2011.”
It's a very different story to that painted by teaching unions, who highlight that less than half of teachers in England have more than ten years of teaching experience.
Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT says:
“This Education Select Committee report should act as a wake-up call to ministers that falling back on sticking plaster solutions such as the failed National Teaching Service will do nothing to address the systemic causes of the teacher supply crisis.”
Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner sends a similar message:
“Recruitment targets are being missed, school budgets are being cut for the first time in decades and we have thousands more unqualified teachers teaching in our schools."
How can the government and the teaching profession see things so differently?
Schools are losing valuable, highly-experienced teachers. Instead of retaining expert practitioners, school leaders find themselves having to recruit more newly qualified teachers.
These energetic teachers with fresh ideas will always be valuable additions to staffrooms but they need role models and mentors. Without nurture and support, we are setting these young teachers up to fail.
How do we solve the teacher recruitment crisis?
To improve recruitment and retention, we need to develop and nurture our teachers. They need to feel appreciated and valued. Leaders need to address teacher workload and introduce relevant, high-quality professional development opportunities.
Schools need good teachers. They need a balanced workforce with a range of experience and a variety of expertise. To ensure this balance, leaders need to take time to understand their school and analyse how to make it as effective and efficient as possible.
The current climate in education is putting schools under pressure to deliver results and reduce budgets. There may be good reasons for these economic and political goals but they should not come at the price of teachers' health, wellbeing and development.
InfoMentor helps challenge traditional education. Our software impacts positively in reducing teacher workload. It increased staff efficiency and gives staff back their 'lost hours' of time spent on repetitive administration tasks. It raises moral and invigorates teachers to do what they are good at - teaching. Teachers not working harder - working more efficiently.