‘Instead of a schools minister, we should have a teaching minister focussed on recruitment and CPD’

11th June 2015 at 17:43
Jim Knight

This week I spoke at the launch of the Teacher Development Trust report on effective professional development, Developing Great Teaching. This is a great examination by four highly credible academics of the evidence of what works in the professional development of teachers.

The backdrop to this report is the recruitment crisis in English schools. As TES reported a couple of weeks ago, there has been a 12 per cent fall in applicants to teacher training.  Meanwhile, elsewhere in "TES Towers”, we notice that the shortage of applicants for teacher vacancies is growing beyond the shortage subjects or the more remote parts of the country.  

This is, in turn, being exacerbated by the growth of international schools. I would estimate that this will increase the initial teacher training requirement by many thousands each year. 

But beyond recruitment, there is also the need to retain the talent we already have in the profession.

It amazes me how many people think this is inevitable – that as many as a third of teachers will just leave after three years. But what if we were to really nurture that talent: couldn't schools hang on to some of those people and lessen the crisis?

One of the things that is clear from surveying educators, domestically and internationally, is that teachers value collaborative reflection and development, and they value feedback.  At the same time, it seems that training budgets are being scaled back in schools.

That is what makes the TDT report so important. It not only points to what works, but also has clear pointers for both providers and schools. One of my roles at TES is responsibility for online CPD, and I will certainly be carefully examining the research to see how we can further improve what we are offering. 

For schools, there is an overarching challenge in finding the time and the money for CPD. To me it is a no brainer that, at a time of teacher shortage, it is imperative to prioritise managing the talent you have and to retain it. 

This is not easy. But it is being managed in the leading jurisdictions internationally. The high-performing Asian jurisdictions trade higher class sizes, more self-directed learning and longer school days for more time for development, for reflection and for preparation.  Alongside well-led teaching and alternative career pathways for people in the classroom, this is what consistently works.

Policy-makers must also reflect on this.  

I wish we didn’t have the role of schools minister in this country. We spend way too much time obsessing about schools – their structures, their accountability, their buildings.  

Instead, we should have a teaching minister to obsess about increasing teacher capacity through successful recruitment, retention and continuous professional development and learning.

Jim Knight is chief education adviser to TES' parent company, TES Global, and a former minister of state for schools


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