In April 2015 UCAS processed 98,000 teacher training applications, down 27,000 on the previous year, a drop of 22%.
A recent NAHT survey claims two thirds of schools are struggling to recruit teachers, particularly in vital subjects such as English and maths, and raises major concerns that 72% of senior leaders feel those new to teaching lack the understanding in the science of teaching.
What can be done to support recruitment and retention? Why are so many potential teachers, those completing and those who have completed the ITT, turning their back on the teaching profession? Is the return on the initial investment of choosing to teach not as great as it once was?
Most agree that there is nothing more important than ensuring the highest possible standards of teaching, but to realise improvement the investment in teacher development and career progression needs to overcome the early challenges that new teachers face.
With five routes into teaching now available, potential trainees can tailor a route to suit their particular circumstances. However, ASCL’s Brian Lightman feels this abundance of options is having the reverse effect and is actually contributing to recruitment shortages stating that “This confusion has deterred people at a time when there are significant recruitment problems.”
Mr Lightman goes on to say, “We recognise the value of having a variety of routes into teaching. We don’t want to turn the clock back. Different people are suited to different approaches. But it is an issue at the moment that people have found it very confusing to understand how to go about getting into teaching and it has not always been obvious to them where they should look for objective advice about all the different routes.”
There are often conflicting opinions when it comes to newly qualified teachers and the importance of securing that first teaching post. Naturally, Universities will want all their graduates to have gained a permanent post as soon as possible. And NQTs may feel the need to shoehorn themselves into the first role offered to avoid being ‘left on the shelf’.
With an abundance of roles available, now is a crucial time in a new teacher’s career requiring a well thought out and considered approach. Every new teacher will have their own profile and every school will want the best teachers. But getting this wrong can leave the teacher demotivated and worried about whether their reference will secure the right role for them the next time round.
Now more than ever, it is important for NQTs to find a recruitment and development partner to continue the good work of ITT providers and for recruiters to evolve away from transactional education recruitment into lifelong learning recruitment support.
Giving those that have completed their ITT the five year rule to complete their induction only has value if high quality support and CPD is available. Regularly speaking to NQTs and RQTs, we have found that they value ‘reflective’ independent lesson observations with feedback and guidance to support outstanding pupil progress. Combined with relevant and engaging training supported throughout by passionate, knowledgeable and interested tutors, mentors and teachers with feedback that enables them to build on existing good practice and develop their pedagogy further.
All NQTs should be “bright-eyed and bushy tailed” at the start of their careers according to Mary Bousted from the ATL and not be put off by reports of heavy workloads, excessive monitoring and poor pay. The introduction of teacher recruitment CPD standards, observations, mentoring and fair pay by agencies could go a long way to ensuring the first important two years of a new teacher’s career are not the last two.