‘Forget recruitment – first, sort out why teachers are leaving'

Focusing on hiring is all well and good, but the bigger issue is how to stop the teacher exodus, writes Colin Harris

Recruitment, retention, leaving the profession, quitting teaching, Colin Harris, Damian Hinds

Listen to education secretary Damian Hinds and you’ll find yourself believing that the recruitment crisis in schools can be solved easily. 

One of his solutions is to introduce more part-time teachers into our classrooms. This perhaps stems from the fact that 17,200 teachers returned to the profession in 2015. Many more wish to come back in a part-time capacity. So all we need to do is match them up (Hinds is even proposing a match.com-style service for job sharers), and ta-da! We have the solution.

Isn’t it all a bit far-fetched?

I have seen some excellent partnerships working together to move a class forward, but equally I’ve seen some disasters. Two teachers for one class may sound brilliant, but the reality is often difficult to manage. Issues include planning decisions; different approaches to teaching and behaviour management; a lack of planning, preparation and assessment; and the feeling among part-time teachers that they aren’t a true part of the school.

But the stark fact is we have a shortfall of up to 30,000 teachers and we need to welcome any attempt to get teachers back into the classroom.

What, though, are we doing to stop the 10 per cent of teachers who leave every year? Many of the teachers I speak with no longer see teaching as a life-long profession. In fact, current research suggests that 80 per cent of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the past year alone. Sadly, we all know the reasons why:

  • Challenging work conditions.

  • Not enough support.

  • Not enough respect.

  • Not enough pay.

  • An emphasis on data and testing.

  • Children no longer being at the centre of all we do.

  • And, ultimately, teachers wanting a "life".

My experience has taught me that teachers have high levels of energy and always work beyond what is expected of them. But far too many cannot cope any more.

Of course, supporting returnees to the profession is important. However, Mr Hinds needs to first tackle the three issues underlying the recruitment crisis.

  1. Too much of what we now do is not for the benefit of children. Workload is strangling all our teachers. It needs to be reduced.

  2. The pay of teachers has now reached a critical level. Teachers have borne the brunt of austerity, and now many cannot afford to live.

  3. Hinds needs to recognise that teachers deserve more respect for the quality job they do. Is it any wonder we cannot convince our youngsters to join the profession when too many have fallen out of love for it?

I still believe that teaching is the greatest job in the world, but it’s Mr Hinds’ job to address the fundamental issues in education so that more people can feel this way.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

To read more of his articles, visit his back catalogue

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