Greening: Teachers need 'stretching' careers that keep them in the classroom

Education secretary's comments follow Tes investigation showing leadership posts are being handed out just to stop teachers from leaving

Eleanor Busby

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Leadership should not be the only option available to teachers who want a successful career, education secretary Justine Greening has told Tes.

It is important to ensure that teachers who want to stay in the classroom still have a “stretching” career path that they can follow, Ms Greening said.

Her comments follow warnings that schools are offering leadership posts to teachers simply as a way of giving them a pay rise and preventing them from leaving.

Last month, Tes revealed that the number of assistant heads in England’s state schools has increased by more than a quarter over the past six years, which was attributed to the recruitment and retention crisis.

Critics claimed there are now “too many generals, not enough soldiers” in the system and that large senior leadership teams risk generating unnecessary workload for teaching colleagues.

When asked by Tes whether she thought that offering more SLT roles was a good retention tool, Ms Greening said: “I think having a successful and stretching career in teaching shouldn't just be about going into leadership.

“If you're the kind of person that wants to have a fantastic career but for you it's about teaching children and being in the classroom, we want to make sure there’s also a career path [for you to] follow, which is every bit as stretching and challenging and it's not just about becoming a head.”

Teachers 'need options'

She added that there should be “options” for teachers who want to go into leadership, as well as those who want to remain in the classroom.

“I think what teachers need and deserve is a proper career path that can really adapt to what their ambitions are,” Ms Greening said.  

The education secretary was attending the launch event of the Institute for Teaching at the Oasis Academy MediaCityUK school in Manchester.

The institute will offer a number of courses – including a programme funded by the Department for Education’s teaching and learning innovation fund, which will focus on “supporting school leaders to improve their expertise in developing the teachers in their schools”.

Speaking at the event, Ms Greening said: “I believe that part of the solution is developing the home-grown talent that is already there.

“We have tried programmes that involve teachers from that place moving miles to go to that place, and actually the bottom line is the people that are most invested in improving their communities are people already there.”

But she added that targeting areas of the country that currently struggle to recruit could make them “more attractive” to other teachers anyway.

Last month, Ms Greening announced that 25 areas across England had been selected to run a pilot programme to reimburse student loan repayments for modern foreign languages and science teachers in the early years of their careers.

First outlined in the Conservatives' election manifesto and confirmed at the party's conference earlier this month, the scheme is aimed at attracting and retaining teachers in the subjects and areas of the country where they are needed most. 

The new student loan repayments pilot and the increased student loan repayment threshold of £25,000 will mean £720 more "cash in pocket" for a teacher on £29,000 a year.

When asked by Tes whether she thought the student loan repayments would be enough to attract teachers to less popular areas, Ms Greening stressed that it was “part of a much bigger solution”,  which involves the DfE’s teaching and learning innovation fund.

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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