With a month or so to go before the ‘teacher recruitment season’ ends, colleagues by now will hope to have found sufficient staff for September. Many of us haven’t. Convincing graduates that teaching is more than ever a highly rewarding and worthwhile profession is only part of putting this right.
Whatever the route into teaching, ASCL is rightly keen to work with government to strengthen the core curriculum for trainees. There is a significant opportunity to draw from a range of excellent practice currently in this area. This would give those of us launching teachers into their career real confidence in what we can expect and what we can build from. High quality training for those in schools who mentor and work the most closely with trainees can surely serve to get the best from them.
In many partnerships between schools and higher education, trainee teachers develop a strong foundation in pedagogical and subject knowledge. This happens where the research elements of pedagogical theory are brought to life in ways which enable the trainee to apply them and reflect and improve further. To strengthen the consistency of this nationally feels like an appropriate challenge for the profession and one we are able to fully embrace.
Why not shout from the rooftops about the reward and fulfilment felt by so many in teaching? To do this in an orchestrated way which repeatedly gives thoughtful and consistent messages to those considering being a teacher should be part of a concerted campaign. We would strongly support the next government working with associated agencies on such a campaign.
Providing additional financial incentive may make a difference too. The flexibility to offer student loan repayment could be focused in severe shortage regions and subjects. A particular challenge with this is just how widespread recruitment difficulties are right now. It may be that a serious gesture should be made to all trainees. This would be a powerful statement of intent from any incoming government.
If the early stages of teaching are to lead somewhere, what better position than for ITE to be the first rung in a professional learning ladder which the profession quality assures? In response to some financial incentive for trainees, schools can embrace the first rung of this ladder and commit to high quality professional learning from the word go. Standards of expectation within this ladder can be rationalised and agreed by the profession.
ASCL’s policy and plan goes further. It is right to think of expansion and strategic co-ordination of training opportunity. It is important to consider the possibility of protecting providers whose disappearance may cause real supply problems. Constructing a recruitment and retention offer for high performing multi-academy trusts which enables them to deploy more flexibly across schools could also make a real difference in areas with the most intransigent recruitment difficulties.
There is of course the other side to of all this – the mind-set around what a brilliant job teaching is. To help with that I offer a few examples of what teachers tell me makes it all so worthwhile:
The carefully planned lesson that goes even better than expected.
Trying something truly innovative which works well and becomes part of a growing repertoire.
The ‘Eureka’ moment of understanding when a difficult concept is finally grasped.
The piece of work that utterly surprises by massively exceeding expectation.
The work with young people outside of lessons which is never forgotten and forms who they become.
The examination results which are better than you dreamed of
The opportunity in employment or education which would not have been created without your input.
The support and recognition from a respected and more experienced colleague.
The self-confidence which grows and convinces you that you are doing the right job.
No one solution will be enough on its own. The strength will be in as much of our plan becoming reality as soon as possible. Only then will the whole become greater than the sum of its parts.