The high workloads involved in teaching are deterring people from entering the profession, teacher training chief Emma Hollis has warned.
Ms Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said that recruiting trainees is becoming increasingly difficult.
“It absolutely is a crisis,” Ms Hollis said. "And I don’t think, this year, that can be denied. Applications are 23 per cent down on last year, which was a bad year.”
She adds that the once-perceived benefits of the job, such as long holidays, are no longer a draw.
“The conversation around teaching has really changed,” she said. “When I started teaching, people who were not teachers would talk about the long holidays. Now, if you say you’re a teacher, they say you work really hard – you see them feeling sorry for you.”
While in the past few months, the government has taken a number of measures designed to make it easier to get into teaching – such as asking providers to “maximise recruitment” and relaxing the rules around the skills test. Ms Hollis is concerned that these measures don’t make the profession more attractive.
“We don’t want to be seen as a profession that is easy to get into – it should be a high bar,” she said.
She warns that telling providers that they must assess entrants’ suitability to train to teach, rather than their suitability to teach, could have unintended consequences.
“Even if you know that a person is not suitable to teach, they could be suitable to train with no prospect of going into employment,” she says. “They are asking us to do something slightly different.
“Someone who is suitable to be on a training programme is not necessarily the same as someone who is suitable to be a teacher.”
Workload pledge needed
She points out that what could really help is a pledge to slow down on curriculum and exam changes, to allow teachers to feel that it is possible to “get on top” of things – something that, education secretary Damian Hinds has recently promised.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are record numbers of teachers in our classrooms – 15,500 more than in 2010 – and last year 32,000 trainee teachers were recruited, more than in the previous year. The education secretary has already set out plans to work with Ofsted and the profession to strip away the workload that does not add value so teachers have the time to focus on what really matters.
“More teachers are joining the profession and retention rates have been broadly stable for the past 20 years.”
This is an edited version of an article in the 23 April edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here