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The post-covid teacher: what skills are schools looking for in 2022?

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The past two years have accelerated the need for new skills to emerge in many sectors looking to reform and grow – and the education sector is no exception.

The pandemics disruption on schools has brought to light an underlying issue the education sector has been struggling with for a while: understaffing. The UK was short of teachers before the pandemic, but staff illness and self-isolation have made the situation worrying, putting teachers and schools under even more pressure.

Adding to this, the role of the teacher is shifting. The pandemic has put EdTech at the centre of the sector – this will be something that will only evolve over time. Therefore, the next generation of teachers need to be tech-savvy, reactive to students’ mental health and wellbeing and responsive towards Covid-19 and its impact on their peers.

The current recruitment landscape 

Not only does has the pandemic made the recruiting for teachers challenging, but Brexit is also taking its toll.  

Many teaching staff were pushed to their limits during the peaks of the pandemic, with teachers having to adapt to teaching remotely, fast. And as we all know, the impact of Covid-19 will have a lasting effect on the sector for many years to come. 

Yet, we have seen fewer teachers resigning from their posts than normal – showing the dedication and passion teaching staff have to the education and wellbeing of their pupils. 

There has also been a rise in schools and colleges looking for help recruiting for new jobs, including covid testers, mental health professionals, specialist support staff and 1-2-1 tuition providers.

Brexit led to many overseas teachers leaving the UK, many of whom have not returned as a result of the pandemic. With many overseas teachers no longer in the candidate pool, what was an already candidate-short market has seen a further squeeze on talent. This coming year we expect the search for the best talent in the profession to be fierce, with a particular increase in demand for foreign language teachers and specialists in STEM subjects. 

These trends will impact the skills that schools are looking for and the demand for them. 

The rise of the tech skill

Technology is now required at all levels, from early years and primary through to secondary and post-16 learning. The change has been dramatic to see as classrooms moved online, and the impact was felt throughout the digital arena for teachers, pupils, and parents alike.

Digital literacy is now a necessity when teaching. Because of this, Reed has tweaked its recruitment process so that we measure and assess, in detail, our candidates’ ability to work with EdTech to be successful in the classroom.

Knowledge of the platforms which deliver this is now required, from basic Zoom and Microsoft Teams to more advanced packages like Google Classroom. Teachers need to be adaptable and have the skills to plan lessons for the online world of learning – utilising the full power of technology to make them engaging and interactive.

On top of this, we are also focussing on hiring tutors to not only help students catch up amidst being sent home without notice for days at a time but also to allow vulnerable teachers, who are no longer able to work at a school, to still teach.

Schools are now recognising that online learning and tutoring can provide personalised learning that can be responsive, bespoke and tailored to pupils’ development – this is something we expect to influence the education sector for time to come.

The ability to adapt

As mentioned, the ongoing lockdowns and sending pupils home on random days of the week has tested teachers as well as students. It has meant that a planned lesson may need rethinking at a moments notice.

The unpredictable nature of the pandemic means that the role now comes with more “on the spot thinking” and unexpected changes. Teachers will need to be prepared for this. It is a skill that most teachers have tuned over the years: being patient and creative with their ability to engage students – especially when it has gone from in-person to via a screen in less than 24 hours.

On top of this, schools will continue to utilise learning platforms for learning resources – this can be of benefit in relation to inclusion, in particular those with different learning abilities such as dyslexia. This will require teachers to not only embrace and be comfortable with technology as previously mentioned but also mean they will be able to help look after a range of students with different learning styles. 

Oftentimes, being able to manage so many different elements and skills comes with experience. We are hoping to see that in the coming years, more industry professionals will have a better avenue to become teachers – which will not only change the education landscape for prospective teachers but also students.

Personalised teaching

In addition to this, teachers and academics need to understand and be familiar with ‘catch-up’ teaching to help students who have unfortunately fallen behind. The skills to teach accordingly are now required – especially for small groups or one-to-one tutoring. Classrooms follow a structure and plan, whereas tutoring does not. Being receptive to students’ individual needs and being able to spot what they are struggling or falling behind on are vital skills for these one-to-one sessions.

Being receptive to mental health and wellbeing

Lastly, a focus on both mental health and wellbeing are essential as the sector looks to recover from such a prolonged break from the normal academic year. Being responsive to mental health is now as important as being able to teach itself. Teachers and staff need to be able to assess and react to an entire range of complex needs in the classroom, with many more pupils needing mental health support.

With half of all mental health issues occurring in people before the age of 14, schools play a key role in student development. Teachers will need to make student wellbeing a priority, will need to look out for warning signs that suggest a mental health problem, and be able to provide those in need with guidance on how to maintain and look after their wellbeing. 

Poor wellbeing in students can also have detrimental long-term effects, with childhood mental health issues being linked to negative impacts on academic development and employment outcomes. Students with mental health issues are less likely to achieve academic qualifications and are more likely to be excluded or have time off school.

Teachers will now have to be in tune with the signs and the responses to help students, especially in an era where the pandemic has taken a toll on many students.

Gavin Beart, Divisional Managing Director of Reed Education

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