Exclusive: ‘Not a lot’ DfE can do on recruitment crisis, warns Teach First

Teach First chief executive Russell Hobby says the government lacks many of the 'levers' to address the teacher recruitment crisis

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There is “not a lot” the Department for Education can do to solve the teacher recruitment crisis, the chief executive of Teach First has said.

Russell Hobby told Tes that “many of the levers” to make teaching more sustainable were “no longer in [the government’s] hands”.

Teach First is tomorrow publishing its strategy for 2018-2023. The plan includes a number of new pilots designed to get more people into the profession, which Tes can reveal today.

Speaking to Tes ahead of the publication of the strategy, Mr Hobby was asked whether the government was doing enough to address the teacher recruitment crisis.

He replied: “I think this government is doing more than predecessors on that front, but one of the massive challenges that they face – and I’ve said this directly to them – is that many of the levers that they would have to make teaching more sustainable are no longer in their hands."

Mr Hobby said that the “devolution and autonomy” which had taken place in education in recent years meant that the government was now in a position where there was “not a lot” which they could do.

He said the accountability system was continuing to drive school behaviour in a way that generated excessive teacher workload.

“It is [teachers’] working conditions that are the most important factor, they’re the things that create challenges on retention,” he said.

Mr Hobby said this also posed problems for recruitment.

“The teaching profession is quite permeable…everybody knows a teacher, so if teachers are talking about what it feels like, most of the rest of the country finds out fairly quickly," he said.

“I don’t think you can recruit new people while you’ve got other teachers saying it’s tough…it’s about getting those conditions right so that teachers themselves are saying to people you should come and be part of that.

“Unfortunately, the number of ways that we’ve got to do something about that are limited.”

He said that accountability changes announced by the education secretary Damian Hinds in May were “signs in the right direction”.

However, he added that the “rate of transmission” from Ofsted announcements designed to reduce workload, to changes on the ground, was “unbelievably slow”.

“There are still inspectors out there who are not giving the same messages which the [Ofsted] chief inspector is giving on this.

“There are still schools that are over-complying and goldplating all their policies and systems to try to protect themselves on this.”

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