LBO April 2017
At the heart of good schools are great teachers. So it should be a serious concern to us all to read last month’s report into teacher recruitment and teacher retention.
It identifies an absence of effective national policy to train sufficient teachers and in the right subjects leading to inadequate teacher supply and an apparent inability by schools to make the workplace attractive and thus retain their teachers.
The consequence of these failings is that teacher recruitment is the biggest headache cited by headteachers alongside budget cuts. Coincidentally the two are not unconnected because in the recent past staffing shortages may have been plugged by paying incentives and offering enhanced salaries. This cannot continue as school budgets are squeezed.
Shortages are reported across the country though they vary according to phase, subject specialism and by region.
Headteachers report that traditional forms of staff recruitment no longer work. Expensive ads in newspapers or on-line simply fail to produce applicants. Schools are falling back on social media and informal networks to seek out potential applicants for vacancies. And the process of replacing staff has crept ever earlier so that schools are typically searching for new starters for the new school year in September already in December if not sooner.
A further change in the landscape has been the rise of supply agencies. A recruitment agency can fulfil a useful function in supplying last minute or short term staffing solutions. But increasingly teachers are signing up to agencies in seeking a new post forcing schools to engage in a process that carries heavy finders’ fees.
The report highlights the nub of the problem being inadequate numbers of teachers being trained. This is something that requires planning and funding and that government must address, urgently and with energy, if the current difficulties are not to become a full blown crisis as pupil numbers grow.
A further promise made some time ago needs also to be kept, namely to establish a national one-stop shop recruitment point free to schools for advertising teacher vacancies. This could play an important part in reducing the time involved in and cost of recruitment.
There are many things we must do but prompt and decisive action is needed if we are to continue to have sufficient great teachers teaching our children.