'Workload, pitiful pay and respect for the profession at an all-time low: no wonder no one wants to be a teacher'

I’d like to be optimistic about the future of teaching, writes this educationist, but it sometimes seems too hard

Colin Harris

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This week we were treated to the first interviews with Amanda Spielman in her new role as Ofsted chief inspector. I read the pieces in anticipation that she might recognise the sheer scale of the recruitment crisis we are currently in. I was disappointed.

This is drastically shortsighted: it seems to me that the profession may become crippled in the very near future.

In my current role I travel the country trying to recruit teachers to come to work in our very successful local authority. What should be easy is anything but – the reasons make for depressing reading.

Firstly, we are not training anywhere near enough teachers. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2020 we will need an additional 30,000 teachers to deal with the projected 600,000 extra pupils we will see in the next five years. This is further complicated by the different ways to train teachers: muddying the picture and confusing supply.

The next issue is that teaching is not the attractive proposition it once was for graduates. 38 years ago when I set off on this wonderful career it was a vocation for life: this is certainly not the present situation. Many students openly tell me they will be in teaching for only a few years then move on to something else or move abroad.

It is definitely not an attractive profession financially. Those highly polished adverts on television make out we are all rolling in it. The reality is most graduates start on £30,000 while teachers start on £21,000.

Perhaps this differential would be acceptable if we were viewed positively by society. Alas, this is not the case. Regular teacher-bashing in the media, together with a lack of respect for the profession that pervades society does very little to help. Ofsted doesn’t do much to make us feel better either. Please, take note, Ms Spielman.

Moving on to our conditions of service, and things are no better. A survey by YouGov in October 2015 found that half of all teachers were considering leaving the profession in the next year, with 61 per cent citing workload as the main reason and 57 per cent saying they wanted a better work life balance.  The reality at present is that we are all being asked to do more and more with less and less money and get recieve recognition. It feels to me that we are at the point of a massive implosion.

To make matters worse, the government are aware of the facts but are doing nothing about it. In May 2016 the House of Commons accounts committee criticised the DfE's attempt to recruit teachers saying they'd not understood the difficult reality many schools face in recruiting teachers. This is reflected in only 93 per cent of the Initial Teacher Training spaces being filled with some problem subjects well below this.

Our pupils are faced with being taught by unqualified staff.

The DfE are also doing precious little to encourage incumbent teachers to stay on board. Pay has stagnated, workload is still too high, respect is at an all-time low, and Ofsted does little to help.

I'm a positive person but I’m fairly sure nothing is going to be done about these many problems. Dear, oh dear.

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Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.

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