Incentives are needed to keep staff

The crop of new teachers has arrived in the classroom this week feeling happier and more optimistic than ever before, says the government body responsible for teacher training. They are confident that they can teach well and deal with unruly pupils.

Though schools still struggle to find teachers in some secondary subjects, the shortages of five years ago have vanished. Headteachers are no longer desperately trawling the world to fill posts, and evidence from Ofsted suggests that the new generation of teachers is better than ever.

Government incentives to draw people into teaching and a substantial improvement in salaries have done the trick.

At the other end of the scale, the picture is less cheerful. More teachers are leaving than at any time since Labour came to office at the start of a wave of retirements which will mean a 40 per cent turnover in the profession during the next decade. Early retirements are also increasing and primary teachers are shunning headships.

So it is time for ministers to consider how best to keep those bright young teachers in schools and persuade them to take on more senior roles.

The salary and funding increases since 1997 have gone hand in hand with increasing demands. If teachers are being paid substantially more than they were a decade ago, substantially more is being expected of them. Women, in particular, a survey shows this week, feel that headship is not worth the hassle and are putting their families before their careers.

Teaching has never attracted people who are just interested in the money.

Financial incentives are not enough as the pressure of the job escalates.

Senior teachers should have a right to sabbaticals to renew their energy and enthusiasm. They would benefit hugely from time away from the classroom to reflect on the way they teach and lead. Heads need a more supportive inspection system which helps them to put things right as well as telling them what is wrong. And everyone needs a break from all those government initiatives.

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