Longer ago than I care to admit, when I was at school, I found myself dropped to the bottom set in mathematics.
It was not altogether unexpected, but it still demoralised me. I wondered if I would be able to pass my exams not only in mathematics but also in other subjects.
But when I got there, I was greeted by Mr Ardler, my new teacher.
Instead of allowing me to wallow in self-doubt, he challenged and motivated me and entertained and impressed his whole class.
The power of a great teacher
Looking back now, it was in that moment that I learned first how important an individual teacher can be, how they can change students’ lives.
My experience is not unique – far from it. Millions of people in this country and, indeed, across the world can tell tales of how an inspirational teacher transformed their lives, giving them the skills, knowledge and belief to achieve their ambitions.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be taking on the role of minister for school standards.
It’s also why the development of our workforce, including support staff, teachers and leaders, is going to be right at the top of my priorities.
The data shows what we know anecdotally: that the quality of teaching that a child receives is the biggest determinant of what that child achieves.
Investing in development
We are investing a huge amount in teacher development as part of our education recovery, reflecting the fundamental role that quality teaching has as we support our young people back from the impact of the pandemic.
It’s vital that we maximise the reach of this investment, so as many teachers as possible – and as many young people as possible – can benefit.
That’s why, going forward,we are now making the newly reformed suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) freely available to all teachers and leaders in state-funded schools and colleges, and I hope this will encourage lots more teachers to apply.
Expressions of interest can be made now for future cohorts.
This will help teachers to get the training they want and deserve to enhance their skills and progress in their careers, helping to keep excellent teachers in the profession – and, one day, leading it.
And it will give every single student the opportunity to be taught by dedicated, highly trained teachers.
Backed by £184 million, the programme will deliver 150,000 NPQs to teachers and leaders across the next three years, helping us in our mission to level up education across the country, while continuing to support the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people.
I am going to champion teachers at every opportunity, and this training will give them more tools in their armoury to tackle poor or disruptive behaviour, manage classrooms and teach as effectively as possible.
My focus on the teaching workforce means bolstering our efforts on recruitment, too. We need to recruit more teachers, especially in high-demand subjects, such as maths, sciences and languages.
To help these efforts, we are launching the Recruitment Premium Package for 2022, offering bursaries for high-demand subjects, giving financial incentives to talented would-be teachers to consider teaching as an attractive career option.
Applications will open today (12 October) for prospective trainees, and more than 70 per cent of funding will go where recruitment is most challenging, in Stem subjects, where bursaries will be highest at near £24,000.
Bursaries for languages will rise to £15,000, which will also be the level they are reintroduced at for geography and design and technology.
All of these come alongside our continued commitment to a £30,000 starting salary.
These steps are being put in place to help us attract and retain excellent teachers, while making sure every teacher has the opportunity to progress in their careers.
Because ultimately, it’s the teacher at the front of the classroom that is going to have the biggest impact on a child’s education. A teacher like Mr Ardler.
We need more Mr Ardlers – more talented, committed individuals who can literally transform a person’s life – to work alongside the thousands already in classrooms and to help us make sure every child can leave this pandemic in the rear-view mirror and look to the future with optimism.
Robin Walker is the minister for school standards