Recruitment & retention: Long-term gain?

Written by: Deborah Lawson | Published:
Deborah Lawson, general secretary, Voice

The government’s various proposals will not help the teacher recruitment and retention crisis in the short-term, but they do have long-term potential, says Deborah Lawson

Teaching is more than a great job. It is, at least for most, a vocation.

What it is not, is something that everyone can do. Those who enter the teaching profession choose to do so because they want to, and believe they can, make a difference.

Teachers guide and inspire their pupils to acquire learning habits that will lead not only to the acquisition of knowledge, but the application of knowledge and learning to success for life.

As honourable as the profession and the reasons for entering it are, the current recruitment and retention crisis is proof that vocation, ability and the personal and professional satisfaction of becoming a teacher are not enough to attract the number of people needed into the profession.

The reasons why are well rehearsed, documented and publicised and can make depressing reading – which is not only disheartening but is also influencing the decisions of those choosing not to enter, or remain, within the profession.

The perfect storm that is the current recruitment and retention crisis did not just happen overnight. It developed over a much longer period and has many drivers and factors – some of which are recognised and accepted, it seems, by the current secretary of state as unintended consequences of government policy, including some that can be attributed to ill-informed or politically driven ideology.

So, the solutions, therefore, must be multifaceted, interlinked, and perhaps interdependent, and will take time to develop, implement and, most importantly, provide results which reverse the current trend. They will also require capacity in the system to implement if they are to work.

The recent change to initial teacher training skills tests, although not without controversy, is expected to encourage some to reconsider teaching as a career. It, like the other initiatives, will take time to filter through. There is no silver bullet or quick-fix solution.

The change does, however, recognise that some potentially good teachers have previously been prevented from entering teacher training and seeks to resolve that issue, while not diluting the standard of those wishing to enter the profession.

Voice welcomed the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation strengthening qualified teacher status (QTS) and improving career progression for teachers.

There are several elements to its proposals which are positive. All of them, however, require change – something that, although accepted as necessary in all professions, can be unpalatable when enforced rather than allowed and enabled to develop organically over time.

The proposal to extend the induction (NQT) period is not universally considered a good idea, not least because it may add to the current recruitment crisis if viewed by prospective teachers as a deterrent.

However, we believe that extending the award period is worthy of consideration and can have a positive long-term benefit for the profession.

There are, of course, caveats, which include recognising the different phases of training and the necessity to mark the successful completion of the initial phase of training, whether by awarding a certificate of initial teacher training (ITT) or introducing a specific status which recognises the next stage of training.

By taking a step back and considering the proposals in the long-term, there are many aspects that are positive and have the potential to raise the status of the profession.

The status of teachers and teaching is something which has been eroded over a number of years and although its decline alone is not the sole factor for the current situation, it certainly contributes to it.

Emphasising and formalising teacher CPD is a positive direction of travel and is fundamental to strengthening QTS.

Although a national CPD framework for new early career teachers (post-QTS) may not be a confirmed statutory right or entitlement, formalising the arrangements establishes a career-long expectation which, if properly funded, is a direction of travel to be welcomed, if not celebrated.

While many of the current initiatives in play mean the immediate burden the profession experiences will not be relieved, the longer-term picture has some potential.

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