It was somewhat ironic watching a 10 o’clock news item about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, which showed a video clip of a careers fair. There I was in the background. My two-second moment of fame! I had been working at the event that took place at a university earlier that day and my job was to give advice to students who were interested in pursuing a career in teaching. Secondary maths teachers were hard to find – that’s what the news reader was saying. But there I stood – a qualified teacher of maths, who had recently left the profession – on screen. Obviously, I had to chuckle to myself.
The thing is, that happened over 15 years ago. Since then I have worked for a London borough, setting up a local teacher recruitment and retention strategy, and as a freelance consultant advising schools, government bodies and local authorities on teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. I remember the early days of speaking to colleagues about all the wonderful schemes we could put in place to help alleviate the problem, but encountered a number of rather despondent responses: they had been here before, around 15 years previously! So the cycle continues…
Present day. Watching the Education Select Committee’s discussion* about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis on Wednesday morning, I found myself talking to the screen, making comments like “we’ve seen this before,” and “we tried that in the past.” Now, who was I sounding like?! But why do we not learn from history? I know that’s a big ask, but surely we can build upon past experiences and efforts to tackle a reoccurring problem in order to avoid the same temporary fixes? Perhaps recruitment is not the issue– rather a need to change the nature of the role, for example by helping reduce workload and manage pupil behaviour. Listening to feedback from teachers and responding to this feedback would, in my (decidedly, qualified and informed) opinion, certainly be a good place to start.
But how should I respond to my friend who told me last night that she’s considering a career-change into teaching from a stressful city job with a long commute each day? I am unsure how my ‘pitch’ should go: Teaching is undoubtedly a thoroughly rewarding profession and a vocation, but it comes with numerous challenges associated with working in a system that is under constant reform. My friend’s ideals may perhaps be broken when she realises that her working day will be longer, she’ll spend more time assessing and planning than actually ‘teaching’, her holidays will not be her own and she’ll have no energy for much else. Have I got this right or are things finally about to change?
Written by a Schoolzone member, October 2016.