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Labour: 'Toxic mix of workload and reform causing recruitment crisis'

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A “toxic mix” of excessive workload and government reform has played a key role in the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said today.

Ms Powell has urgently called for stability in the system in the wake of the “genuine workload issue” and “an unprecedented exodus of great teachers from the profession”. 

At the Education Foundation’s Education Reform Summit in Sheffield, Ms Powell accused ministers of being “blind” to the problem of recruitment facing many schools.

The government is yet to formally acknowledge that there is a crisis in recruitment in the profession. But education secretary Nicky Morgan told TES last month that getting teachers in front of classrooms was her top priority.

At the summit today, where TES is a media partner, Ms Powell said: “You cannot solve the problem if you are blind to it and I am afraid ministers are blind to it. They need to recognise that this is a problem before they can begin to deal with it.

“There is a teacher supply crisis and the government seems to be the last people to admit it. It is time for them to look again at their recruitment process and renew efforts to bear down on teacher workload.”

In her speech, Ms Powell stressed that a “constant upheaval” of government reforms and a workload issue “affecting morale in the profession” needed to be addressed.

“All of these issues are creating a toxic mix and are a significant factor in why we are seeing an unprecedented exodus of great teachers from the profession,” she said.

The Labour MP also told the audience that “ministerial diktat” on the curriculum had gone “too far”.

“The detail of what happens in individual lessons should not be controlled in Whitehall. It should be for all schools to develop their curriculums, put this framework into practice in the classroom and make it meaningful for every young person,” she added. 

In response to the speech, Russell Hobby, general secretary of headteachers’ union the NAHT, said:

“Lucy Powell is right to warn about constant upheaval in education, which harms pupils, parents, teachers and school leaders.

“The rate of change is getting worse rather than better, with reforms now being overhauled before they are even implemented. Stability in the system is needed.

“This all adds up to further turmoil in secondary education. Pupils, parents, teachers and school leaders need better planning and communication.”

Commenting on Ms Powell's speech, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said:

“Teachers have had to endure the chaos of constant curriculum and assessment changes. The increase in workload which this has generated is a contributing factor to the present teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

Department for Education spokesperson said that is was “disingenuous” and “misleading” to suggest there was a crisis in teacher recruitment. Ninety per cent of staff remain in the profession from one year to the next, they said.

They added that the DfE was confident that parents backed plans to "raise standards" and said the claim that the curriculum was "prescribed by politicians" was "completely untrue".


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