We continually talk about the recruitment crisis: sometimes little else. Luckily I am now able to bring a new perspective to it as I am spending the next few months traveling up and down the country visiting countless teaching fairs, trying to persuade new teachers to come to teach in our local authority.
Daily, as I try to convince perspective teachers to come to Hampshire, I am infected by the student teachers’ boundless enthusiasm and their positive attitude. They haven't as yet become disillusioned or bitter teachers.
The question I ask myself is this: “How can we get teachers to stay in the profession?'
To answer this question we need first to analyse why so many are leaving. To my mind there are five main reasons:
- The heavy workload is well documented and is crippling many, many teachers.
- Teacher bashing from the government, Ofsted and the media.
- The constant changes day in day out.
- The challenging behaviour we face daily.
- Lastly the pay and conditions we all accept as normal.
There is an answer for those of us endeavouring to do something about the profession’s exodus, therefore: let’s try to make the job normal again. By this I mean a job where we can achieve a work-life balance, while enjoying our work and biung paid a fair wage to do so.
Firstly we need to start at the beginning with the universities or training provider: there needs to be much more reality in their courses training – far less time teaching meaningless theory and more teaching classroom and behaviour techniques. When the teacher enters the classroom as an NQT they need to be prepared.
These new teachers need a carefully-chosen mentor. Someone who can teach the skills needed for a long career. Similarly, each school need a support structure which perhaps should be checked by Ofsted.
Secondly, we need to rediscover respect for the job. Is it that hard for the media and the government to think we may actually be doing a great job? We must find a way to stop the battering we get day-in and day-out.
Thirdly we need more planning time and less pointless meetings. Let's ensure teachers have the time to do the necessary paperwork in their contacted hours, rather than at home.
Fourthly we need to be paid a fair salary and be in an environment where we are treated as individuals rather than numbers. Teachers need to be as supported and valued as the pupils they teach.
Lastly we need a well-planned approach to change, not the ad hoc approach we have at the moment. Just as every school needs an improvement plan so does the education system and we as teachers should have a part to play in creating it.
If even just one or two of these changes took place it would do something to stem the talent haemorrhaging from the profession.
Colin Harris is a former principal, who is now supporting teachers and school leaders.