This morning I found myself asking: “You what? Are they effing mad?”
It was my reaction to news that the government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee had advised against adding the teaching profession to the Shortage Occupation List. It’s a move that would have made it dramatically easier for schools to recruit teachers from outside the European Union.
This astonishing – and pretty much inexplicable – decision came in the face of mounting pressure from heads’ unions, the Department for Education and the Tes’ own Let Them Teach campaign, which had recruited countless organisations, school groups and teachers as supporters.
The MAC’s report makes for odd reading. It outlines how the current picture for the recruitment and retention of teachers is increasingly desperate across many subjects and phases and explains why that might be: suppressed pay and rocketing workload.
It paints a fairly ugly picture of teachers fleeing the profession, and growing class sizes.
But then, rather surprisingly, it says that only maths, physics, science (where an element of physics will be taught), computer science and Mandarin would be included on the new SOL. It’s a decision that represents a continuation of the status quo.
Tackling teacher recruitment
And so – in a move that will shock many, many heads struggling to recruit teachers across the country – the entire primary sector and all other secondary subjects were left high and dry.
Of course, the MAC report is right that the reasons for the recruitment and retention crisis are workload and pay, but as there is no sign of any major improvement in either of these areas, surely other avenues must be explored: and that includes recruiting teachers from overseas. Why would we make this so hard for ourselves?
In a slightly bizarre twist, the report points twice towards the Now Teach programme as a potential solution to this country’s massive problems in teacher supply. This tiny programme (with around 100 in this year’s cohort) aims to recruit career-changers into teaching. While worthy, this is an initiative that represents nothing but the tiniest drop in the ocean.
The MAC report is nearly as bizarre a read as its conclusions are strange. The thinking is messy and one can’t help but suspect that its final recommendation might be political.
Thankfully, these are only recommendations, and the home secretary can overrule them. It is to be hoped that Sajid Javid listens to the profession and the Department for Education and does just that.
Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes