Your Weekly Sector News 24/03/23

From the government’s inquiry into the teacher recruitment and retention crisis to invigilator shortages and calls for Ofsted reform, there are lots of stories to catch up with in the news this week. Keep reading to find out what lies ahead in the world of education.
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Education Committee launches inquiry into the teacher supply challenge

The Education Committee has launched an inquiry into teacher recruitment, training, and retention, following reports of increasing teacher shortages in English state schools. Ministers will investigate the problems that underlie the teacher supply challenge, including ‘how well the current teacher training framework prepares new teachers, and how the English system compares internationally.’ Written evidence on the recruitment and retention crisis can be submitted through this link.

Teacher recruitment has been a significant challenge over the last decade. In 2022/23, data shows that a total of 23,224 trainees were recruited, 20 percent less than in 2019/20, prior to the pandemic. Overall, the government met just 59 percent of the target for trainee secondary teachers and only 93 percent for primary teachers. Based on the number of applications made so far this year, the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) believes that teacher recruitment is unlikely to improve. Researchers estimate that primary and half of all secondary subjects are expected to be 20 percent or more below the target this year.

The NFER asserts that teacher pay is a key driver of falling recruitment and retention rates. In 2021/22, teacher pay was 12 percent lower in real terms than in 2010/11. Researchers say that ‘while the earnings of similar graduates have also fallen in real terms since 2010, teacher pay has fallen by more.’ By 2021/22, real earnings growth for teachers was 11 percent lower than for other graduates.

However, there are also other factors at play. For example, many teachers struggle with high workloads and feel they spend too much time on administration, data input, marking, and lesson planning. Data shows that working hours for full-time teachers are higher than those for similar graduates in other occupations. Similarly, teachers have limited opportunities to work from home, whilst home working has become increasingly prevalent amongst the wider labour market. The NFER recommends that the government continues to focus on reducing teacher workload, whilst funding further research to better understand teachers’ flexible working preferences.

Fears grow over shortage of invigilator staff

According to a poll by the National Association of Exam Officers (NAEO), three-quarters of exam officers are concerned that there will not be enough fully trained invigilators to oversee students sitting their GCSE and A Level exams in the summer. This comes as schools prepare for a return to pre-pandemic grading in 2023.

Exam officers fear that shortages may arise from the increasing number of young people who are entitled to exam access arrangements. This can include providing pupils with a separate room to take the exam in, or with reader and scribe support, which would require additional invigilator staff.

Ofqual data shows that the total number of approved access arrangements has been on the rise for years. In 2010/11, the number stood at 243,500. By 2018/19, this had risen to 404,600. In the aftermath of the pandemic, school leaders report that more pupils are presenting with anxiety. Last year, the number of approved access arrangements increased to 512,085. With fears over staff shortages, invigilator rules were relaxed as a result.

Currently, the NAEO says there is still enough time to train new staff and advises centres to continue with a final recruitment push. The NAEO also recommends identifying internal staff, including teachers and support staff, who could be trained to invigilate.

Calls for Ofsted to pause inspections following the tragic loss of headteacher

There has been an outpouring of grief and anger across the sector due to the tragic death of Ruth Perry, headteacher at Caversham Primary School, who took her life on January 8. According to her family, ‘Ruth’s death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school.’ This week, Ofsted published their report, downgrading the school from outstanding to inadequate.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has reached 200,000 signatures. Unions have also called for Ofsted to pause inspections and bring reform to the inspections system ‘to make it fairer and less punitive.’ In solidarity, one school leader said they would refuse entry to Ofsted inspectors, although she has since backed down following talks with the inspectorate and the local authority. A peaceful protest was held outside the school gates instead. Under the Education Act 2005, obstructing inspections is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum fine of £2,500. Nevertheless, in a recent poll of 9,000 teachers, 74 percent said they would support headteachers boycotting Ofsted.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education offers their condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Perry and says they are ‘continuing to provide support to Caversham Primary School at this difficult time.’ An inquest into the headteacher’s death is set to take place at Berkshire Coroner’s Court later this year.

At One Education, we recognise that the teaching profession is highly rewarding, and every day we admire the hard work, talent, and innovation of our colleagues in schools and trusts. However, we also understand that working in education can also be incredibly challenging. Record numbers of teachers and education staff have considered leaving the profession due to pressures on their mental health over the past academic year.

In partnership with the Manchester Stress Institute, One Education’s HR team has developed the Wellbeing Support Package for schools and trusts, supporting you with the skills and resources to build a culture of care in the workplace.

To find out more, please get in touch.

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