Expert comment

What can be done to help recruit and retain teachers?


What can be done to help recruit and retain teachers?

Kerry Jordan-Daus and William Stow from the Faculty of Education offer a solution to the current crisis of teacher recruitment and retention.

It’s Groundhog Day – another news story is running about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. On many blogs and expert comment pieces over the past 7 years, we have been writing about these thorny issues and never seem to see any improvement, and we are permanently stuck in a winter of challenges. But what are the issues that lie behind the headlines and what can be done about it?

There is no doubting the scale of the issue for schools in Kent, Medway and East Sussex.

DFE local workforce analysis (2010-2015) shows that over 25% of secondary and 8% of primary schools reported vacancies or temporary appointments in the South East region in 2015. These are the highest rates in England outside London. It also shows that urban, high deprivation, coastal primary and secondary schools have among the highest proportions of unqualified teachers and secondary schools have the highest rates of teacher wastage.

But what lies behind this persistent problem? Different parties lay the blame in different places. For the unions, it is a problem of low pay, high stress and unmanageable workload. Surveys and reports constantly highlight the effect that these things are having on morale and retention. Politicians have sought to tackle one of these – workload – by providing firm guidance on how to reduce it for teachers and expecting OFSTED to reinforce this. But they are not yet tackling pay (watch this space on public sector pay-cuts) and show no appetite to get to grips with the biggest cause of stress – high-stakes assessment and school league tables.

We have constantly highlighted another factor – the lack of accessible, high-quality and sustained professional development for teachers. Vital as it undoubtedly is to give teachers the best possible start through initial training, that is only as good as the support they receive in their early careers and beyond.

However, there is seldom any meaningful link made at a policy level between these two aspects of initial and continuing professional development, and there have been too many systemic and perverse incentives acting against collaboration. As a result, there is little progression, continuity or consistency in the support available to teachers.

The advent and establishment of the Chartered College of Teaching does offer a glimmer of hope, a new opportunity to provide over-arching frameworks for and renewed status to the pursuit of professional advancement in teaching. As the regional hub for CCT in the south east, we are passionate about high quality initial and continuing teacher education. Our partnerships with schools, academies, Teaching School Alliances, Teach First and all the new players in the education playground is strong. It is built on a shared belief in high quality education and high quality professional development. In fact, this is just what we have been doing, whilst politicians have been undermining the excellence of the HE contribution to teacher education. #Letsbuildittogether is a powerful message coming from the CCT, because, let’s be honest, politicians and governments have done their best to break us apart!

The recruitment, development and retention of a high quality teaching workforce is at the heart of school improvement and is so vital for the life-chances of children and young people in our region.

Collaboration with a range of organisations to build a coherent architecture of career development for teachers can go some way towards improving the ways that we attract, nurture and keep those that commit to such an important role.

Let’s hope that in another seven years time, we look back on this as a time of major change for the better and as the day that we escaped the curse of the Groundhog.

Kerry Jordan-Daus is Head of UK and International Partnerships in the Faculty of Education. William Stow is Head of School of Teacher Education and Development.

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