From education to employment

How can we combat the teacher recruitment crisis?

Recent figures show that school vacancies have been growing year on year, with the number of available jobs across all areas of the sector seeing a rapid increase since the outbreak of Covid 19.

Estimated recruitment data shows the numbers currently in teacher training are struggling across the board, with subjects such as physics being hit the worst, with only 23% of the postgraduate initial teacher training target being met. When you combine that with the increasing number of teachers who have been predicted to leave the profession in their first 5 years, it’s a worrying prospect.

It’s particularly worrying when you consider the increasing number of responsibilities being placed on teachers. Workloads have been growing, eating further and further into evenings, weekends and holidays, whilst a drive towards targets and tick-box exercises have been piling the pressure on further.

But how can we attract more staff into these roles?

If we want to encourage more new talent into the sector, we must start by valuing the staff we already have.

Whilst the cost of living crisis continues to crunch for many families, public sector wages have been falling behind private sector ones. As a result, teaching union NASUWT says 9 in 10 teachers are worried about finances, with some even taking second or third jobs to make ends meet. This sends a clear message to potential new starters that teaching isn’t celebrated nearly enough.

Whilst many significant changes lie with those in power, especially the thorny issue of pay, we aren’t entirely powerless to make a positive difference ourselves. At every level, there is an opportunity to combat the shift towards competition over collaboration.

Within every school, there is so much great work that often goes unnoticed and undervalued, but we have the power to shine a spotlight on the things that really matter.

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from past students and teachers, and have been humbled to hear how sometimes even the smallest words have stuck with them for years since. When we think back to our time at school I’m sure it’s easy to pinpoint teachers or moments which had a real impact on us. But it’s not often as educators, particularly as leaders, that we really get to see ourselves in that light.

As teachers, we are in a truly fortunate position to have an impact on those we teach, or those we lead, and these are the things that really matter, above league tables or targets. With every pupil who crosses our path, we have the chance to create sparks that allow them to build their own communities.

My vision behind Above & Beyond, the social platform I created to try and combat factors that account for additional stress and poor mental health. Lots of school staff – and pupils – can feel marginalised and like they don’t belong, and this is something we can come together to help fix.

Too often it feels like we move from one box ticking exercise to another without stopping to take stock of the achievements that get us there along the way. We all do better, including our students, when we take the time to appreciate our own achievements, and the achievements of others, and can find ways to come together and work alongside one another.

The past few years have undoubtedly been tough, with teachers being crucial to the pandemic response, and with continued understaffing there’s no hiding that there will still be challenges up ahead. But when we focus on working together, not in competition, and choose to prioritise celebration, there is so much to gain.

By Alison Kriel

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