Academy Trusts Reveal Their Greatest Challenges
In the Schools White Paper, published earlier this year, the government confirmed that all schools will belong to a multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2030, and all trusts must serve a minimum of 7,500 pupils or run at least 10 schools. In anticipation of this, the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) has surveyed over three-hundred trusts to determine where they currently stand in their development, and what their priorities and challenges will be during the next academic year and beyond.
When asked to identify their top three strategic priorities for 2022-23, seventy-five percent chose improving the quality of education. Growth was the next most common answer, highlighted by fifty-seven percent of trusts. Workforce and people strategy came third, identified by just less than half.
Of these priorities, growth was identified as the most challenging, highlighted by over forty percent of trusts. In comparison, just thirteen percent considered improving the quality of education as one of their greatest challenges. Notably, not all concerns surrounding growth were the same. For example, one respondent explained, ‘marketing the trust in our area is a challenge as the perception of trusts need to be more positive,’ however another commented that ‘as a faith trust, the speed of growth and ensuring that we remain healthy is our challenge rather than attracting growth.’
Overall, these responses reflect a shift in approach following the problems caused by rapid expansion in recent years. The Education Policy Institute found that fast-growing trusts were more likely to have schools rated inadequate and schools with relatively high expenditure. The CST states that changing attitudes should be seen as a positive, showing ‘a realisation of the fact that achieving growth without sacrificing educational quality requires careful thought and leadership.’
The survey revealed other key challenges for trusts, including recruitment, SEND support, and budgetary barriers. Evidently, there is still a long way to go before the sector can achieve a fully trust-led system, but Steve Rollett, Deputy Chief Executive at CST, positively concludes that the journey towards 2030 ‘looks like a future of deepening collaboration and cooperation, with trusts working alongside each other with other partners to deliver for their communities.’
Government Plans to Recruit Teachers From Overseas
As the number of teaching vacancies jump to their highest level in over a decade, the government reveals new plans to help resolve the teacher shortage crisis. From 2023, the new ‘apply for qualified teacher status in England service’ will be launched, open to qualified teachers from every country in the world.
Currently, England only recognises teachers from a list of 39 designated countries, but the new system will widen the net and support the movement of more well-qualified teachers into the country’s workforce. Individuals will be assessed on their qualifications and experience against set criteria, which will determine if they have completed an undergraduate degree as well as a teacher training course at the same academic standards as those in England, and can also demonstrate a proficient level of English.
This comes as data shows that more and more teachers are leaving the profession, with four-thousand more departures in 2020-21 than the previous year. Last November, classroom teacher vacancies rose to 1,600, the highest since recent records began in 2010-11.
Whilst leaders in the sector ‘welcome the move to open up opportunities to teachers from across the world to teach in England,’ there are concerns that ministers have yet to address the crux of the teacher shortage crisis. Julie McCulloch, director at the Association of School and College Leaders, explains ‘the problem is that schools and colleges are underfunded by the government, subjected to an excessively harsh accountability regime, and that the government has presided over a lengthy period of pay austerity.’ To resolve these complex issues, McCulloch says a more strategic approach is needed.
Commission Calls for Revalidation of Teachers Every Five Years
The Times Education Commission has published its report alongside a ‘12-point plan for education.’ After finding that the British education system is ‘failing on every measure,’ commissioners have called for a schooling reset with bold and radical reforms. Perhaps the most ambitious of these is the introduction of a British Baccalaureate, offering broader academic and vocational routes for pupils at 18 and narrowing the set of exams taken at 16.
In addition to reforms that would change learning and assessment, there are also proposals to ‘bring out the best in teaching.’ The commission calls for a concerted effort to raise the status of teaching and make it more intellectually engaging. It hopes this can be achieved through professional development backed up by revalidation every five years, controlled by a ‘beefed-up Chartered College of Teaching.’
The report compares this to the certification process run by the General Medical Council, where doctors are judged on whether they are still fit to practice every five years. The council can then choose to revalidate, defer, or withdraw their licence. Commissioners argue this would ensure all teachers keep up to date on new technology as well as developments in neuroscience and pedagogy. However, there are concerns that this measure could put more pressure on teachers and intensify the retention crisis.
The commission also suggests that there should be a new category of Consultant Teachers, ‘so that staff can work towards promotion within the classroom, rather than having to move into management.’ They cite the Harris Federation as a source of inspiration, a London-based MAT where sixty specialist subject consultants work across the chain of high-performing schools leading professional development.
Many leaders across the sector have welcomed the commission’s final report, including children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, who said that it was ‘brimming with good ideas.’ You can read the full report here to find out more about the commission’s findings and the details of its 12-point plan for education.
From the Schools White Paper to the Times Education Commission report, it is clear that there is a growing appetite for reform in education. Whilst change can be daunting, we are eager to make the most of it, working together to shape an education system that truly engages young people and empowers teachers.