When is a crisis not a crisis? When the Government decides it isn’t.
Paul Cohen, the DfE's director of Teacher Sufficiency, said in February, “The teacher supply challenge is a very severe one.”
In relation to teacher recruitment, the Government realises it can’t pretend or hide anymore and might as well declare a state of national emergency. This is a full-on crisis that deserves the ‘caps lock’ treatment with sirens.
More and more teachers continue to quit the profession but the DfE have watched on, scratched their heads and twiddled their thumbs and so Whitehall, we have a problem.
Some would say that is being too generous and argue the Government has just had its head in the sand. It’s more than “very severe”- our recruitment crisis.
Earlier this year, parliaments spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), admonished the DfE for not prioritising teacher retention and development. It said the department had been “sluggish and incoherent” in its response to falling teacher and rising pupil numbers and urged the Government to “get a grip” as a matter of urgency.
Spending £555m a year training new teachers and just £36m on retaining and developing teachers, PAC said the DfE had got balance all wrong.
The DfE choked on its data and ‘fessed up’ that it had taken its eye off the ball and had given inadequate priority to the mess.
Full of Beans: The Hinds Promise
In a speech to the ASCL’s annual conference in March 2018, the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, announced that the DfE would work with the profession to develop a strategy to drive recruitment and boost the retention of teachers that will identify the steps to be taken and will cover areas such as workload, professional development, career progression, flexible working and entry routes into teaching.
But is the teacher recruitment crisis worse than we think? Every year, the DfE needs to recruit approximately 35,000 new teachers to the profession.
According to a June 2018 House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, we are told that “the overall number of teachers has kept pace with increasing pupil numbers to date, but it has been argued that there are growing signs of shortages, particularly in certain geographic areas and in certain subjects.”
Now that’s an understatement as things are grimmer than grim.
We’ve got gaps and some clever departmental dentistry isn’t going to help as a targeted, measurable plan requires more than a few fillings and some flossing.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.