In a teacher survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, two thirds of respondents (64%) reported when asked ‘what they thought might stop people wanting to become teachers’ that lack of respect for the profession was the primary cause. In the same survey a trainee primary school teacher from Yorkshire said: “I am a trainee but have noticed teachers are constantly berated in the press and morale in education seems to be very low”. This research mirrors a report from OECD on ‘Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers’ which notes that in order to address teacher shortages the image and status of the profession must be raised along with the conditions of employment.
80 per cent of school leaders believe the recruitment crisis
is worse than a year ago amid calls for the government to make
it easier to recruit teachers from overseas.
‘Severe’ teacher recruitment crisis
is hitting pupils’ results, heads warn
In March 2016, the government published a white paper on education. The chapter detailing how it would address recruitment and retention offers little fresh thinking, with proposals including: financial incentives for shortage subjects; better support for newly qualified teachers; paid internships; new schemes for those returning to teaching; new training standards; a new website; a new college of teaching and a new magazine . However, the conclusions from the public accounts committee report published soon after reflect the experiences of head teachers across the country. ‘The Department for Education does not understand, and shows little curiosity about, the size and extent of teacher shortages Despite repeatedly missing its targets, the Department shows no sense of leadership or urgency in making sure there are sufficient new teachers to meet schools’ future needs’. But perhaps the most striking statistic amongst the report was the revelation that the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education estimates that 5,500 extra teachers with a specialism in maths are needed just to teach the maths lessons that are currently being taught by teachers who do not hold an A-level in the subject. One analysis of Government figures, reported in the Guardian, suggests that two out of five newly qualified teachers quit the profession within one year.
There are many issues surrounding the recruitment of teachers but what is certain is that we not only need to attract greater numbers, particularly in shortage subjects, but perhaps as crucially we need to attract the right type of people to the profession – chiefly those individuals that are able to inspire a love for the learning process. Anecdotal evidence, which each of us have from our own school experiences on the importance of good quality teaching, is backed up by wide ranging empirical data. Professor John Hattie, of the University of Melbourne, undertook a meta-analysis of thousands of studies from around the world that have been carried out on educational attainment, with the central aim of quantifying the impact of different approaches to rising attainment. He concluded that, other than the raw cognitive ability of the child herself, only one variable really counts: ‘What teachers do, know and care about’. These conclusions are perhaps summarised most eloquently by the McKinsey report into ‘how the world’s best performing schools come out on top’; the report asserted: ‘The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’. Recent research from the Sutton Trust investigating teacher impact showed that during one year with a very effective maths teacher, pupils gained 40% more in their learning.
10 Selected Effect sizes: What works best for learning in schools?
Source: Visible Learning (2009)
The evidence shows clearly that a child at a bad school taught by a good teacher is better off than one with a bad teacher at a good school. What’s more, the benefits of having been in the class of a good teacher cascade down the years; the same is true of the penalty for having had a bad teacher. Such effects do not fall evenly upon the population, with the children who gain most from good teachers coming from disadvantaged homes in which parental time, money, and books are in short supply. Being in the classroom of a great teacher is the best hope these children have of catching up with their more fortunate peers. The McKinsey report, the Hattie meta-analysis, research from the OECD, and data from the Sutton Trust all emphasise the importance of not just getting people to become teachers but getting the right people to become teachers. As such, we should be doing all that we can to ensure that the best values-driven people are drawn to work in our comprehensive schools, and recognising that teaching is often cited as one of the most stressful occupations, with reports detailing how teachers are frequently leaving school feeling both mentally and physically exhausted.