Universities best placed to nurture committed and passionate teachers
William Stow, Head of the School of Teacher Education and Development, responds to today’s story, running across the BBC network, on the shortfall in teacher recruitment across the UK in relation to teacher training.
On listening to BBC Radio Kent’s Breakfast show today on the challenges schools are facing recruiting teachers, one of the first angles on the story reflected teaching as such a horrible job, it was no wonder no-one wanted to do it.
We work with thousands of new and qualified teachers each year, and as a University cannot share that perspective. Teaching is an amazing job, full of the most extraordinary highs (and lows), in which passionate and committed individuals work every day to make small and big differences to the lives of children.
And, despite the frequency of negative media coverage, and an overall drop in the number of applications, there is still an extraordinary demand from graduates and school-leavers for teacher training. Here at Christ Church, we have seen a strong demand to teach in primary schools, only to have our ability to recruit capped by a new government system half way through the year. But we are still attracting applicants for teacher training in Maths, Science, Modern Foreign Languages and other secondary subjects, in larger numbers than last year.
There is no escaping, however, that teaching is a very challenging job, often made all the harder by excessive, too frequent, and ill-informed policy change. Teacher retention is a massive problem, and aside from the well-known and important factors such as workload, salary vs costs of living and stress, a lack of high quality professional development after initial training is a key contributing factor to this.
The recent government White Paper in education, Educational Excellence Everywhere, proposes yet more changes to the system, some of which have already infamously been removed from the agenda. The most short-sighted proposals seem to promote a further shift of teacher training away from universities, despite the fact that universities work in direct collaboration with schools to supply roughly 90% of all the teachers in the country.
But in the pan of shale there is some gold, if only we can find it and turn it into jewels. There is a renewed emphasis (rhetorically at least) on high quality professional development. There is a proposal to remove the need to attain qualified teacher status at the end of initial training, but rather after this and a period of employment combined to become a qualified teacher in the early years of a career. Combine these two things, and you create the kinds of opportunities that the ‘empty shell’ approach to policy making, which is typical of Conservative governments, tend to throw up: we can redesign our approach to become one of early career development, over the first few years of a teacher’s life.
That is why we are working closely with our partner schools to design ways of developing teachers, which support them in staying beyond two or three years and on into further qualification and recognition as they become experts. Initial teacher training should only be the tantalizing starter on a menu of delicious professional development that is available at any stage of a teacher’s life. In particular, for children and young people whose lives are disrupted and chaotic and against whom the cards of society are firmly stacked, we have a duty to develop outstanding individuals who have the commitment to stay and be a source of stability and inspiration in those lives.
Listen to William Stow on BBC Radio Kent’s Breakfast show (1hr 45mins). For more information about the various teacher education programmes at Canterbury Christ Church University visit the Faculty of Education webpages.