Entering teaching through a door marked `private'

5th December 2014 at 00:00
Independent schools launch a sector-wide recruitment drive

The government's most recent teacher recruitment campaign featured Mr Burton of Educating Yorkshire striding through a gleaming state school. With an elegant kerchief peeping from his jacket pocket, he promised new recruits tax-free training bursaries and tempting starting salaries.

But now, as teacher training numbers fall short of targets, independent schools are launching their first-ever sector-wide campaign to recruit trainees to fee-charging schools.

The drive from the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents more than 1,200 of the UK's most respected private schools, comes just weeks after TES revealed that the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) had launched its own version of Teach First, offering on-the-job training at some of the most prestigious schools in Britain.

The ISC campaign is now attempting to lure prospective teachers to all of its schools with the promise of "small class sizes" and "good discipline and behaviour". Schools themselves are being encouraged to take on and invest in trainees, with the chance to "develop and retain staff".

There are no flashy videos or reality television stars, although a website launched by the ISC does bear a quote from TV historian Professor Niall Ferguson: "In my opinion the best institutions in the British Isles today are independent schools."

Private schools do not receive any of the usual streams of government funding to encourage graduates into teaching - for example, the pound;25,000 tax-free training bursaries in shortage subjects. But the ISC hopes that the chance to mould bright young graduates will be a big enough incentive.

The organisation says its campaign and that of the HMC are a reaction to teacher shortages in some subjects and to the move away from university-based training towards classroom-based routes such as School Direct.

There are also concerns about the growing number of graduates choosing to teach abroad. Recent figures show that about 100,000 UK teachers are working in international schools.

The fears for recruitment in the independent sector reflect those in the state sector, and figures last month revealed that only 93 per cent of teacher training places were filled in September. This figure masks much more worrying numbers in some shortage subjects, though, with only 44 per cent of training places in design and technology being filled. Targets in maths, modern languages and physics were also missed.

Sarah Evans, initial teacher training consultant to the ISC and former head of the King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, said the aim of the campaign was to make it clearer that the independent sector offered on-the-job training and to explain what options were available.

Any trainees the independent sector took on, she said, would contribute to solving the teacher recruitment crisis overall. "Nationally, we have fallen short of the target, so any additional training of teachers must be good for the country as a whole," she explained. It was not about diverting graduates away from the state sector, she insisted.

Training in an independent school would suit some graduates more, Ms Evans said, because schemes such as Teach First - which places bright graduates in challenging state schools - did not necessarily appeal to everyone.

"Training in an independent school is coming at it from a different angle. Not all people respond to being thrown in at the deep end in that sort of way," she said. "Some people will want to hone their teaching first; then later they will have a huge amount more to give to a challenging school."

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the ISC, added: "There are currently more than 54,000 full-time equivalent teachers in ISC independent schools. We hope that by launching this portal -the first of its kind in the sector - more graduates will take up teaching positions in independent schools."

Going private

Reasons for training in an independent school, according to the ISC Teacher Training website:

  • Good discipline and behaviour.
  • Small class sizes.
  • Excellent pastoral care.
  • Culture of high expectations.
  • Range of extracurricular activities.
  • Culture of valuing and respecting teachers.
  • Commitment to improving social mobility (about a third of children are on means-tested bursaries).

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