At this time last year, I considered what the picture of teacher training was going to look like for the year ahead. Now, as we embark on another new year which will undoubtedly bring with it a whole new raft of changes and surprises, I thought it would be worth looking back to evaluate my first set of predictions.
Overall, I was particularly gloomy about what 2014 had in store for the education sector. These concerns stemmed from the reforms of initial teacher training (ITT) undertaken under Michael Gove’s regime, and I was equally downbeat about the future of recruitment to teacher training.
Like many, I did not predict Michael Gove’s departure from education office. Despite this, I was unfortunately right in thinking that teacher recruitment would continue to deteriorate, contributed to, in large part, Gove’s “uncoordinated and clumsy reforms of the teacher training landscape”.
The most recent figures from the Department of Education highlighted a drop in teacher training recruitment figures for the third consecutive year with overall recruitment for 2014 down 2% compared with 2013.
In the past twelve months there has been a large amount of detailed data analysis on teacher recruitment culminating in the yet to be released Carter review, and as the picture becomes clearer there is no doubt that it will continue to deteriorate now and heading in to the future.
Across an ever increasing range of secondary subjects, the Government, through the National College of Teaching and Leadership, is allocating more and more initial teacher training opportunities to more and more ITT providers, which are in turn recruiting fewer and fewer trainees.
Again, it’s a sad and unfortunate truth that this all points to the fact that teaching as a profession is slipping down the list of preferred occupations. A devastatingly large number of schools located across the UK are continuously reporting a stark increase in teacher shortages, not only in the difficult secondary subjects, but also for some of the subjects where there were no problems in attracting new teachers in the past.
Is this a surprise? Well, in my opinion, not really.
I believe the lack of national marketing of teaching as a valuable career choice and the fact that trainees have no alternative but to pay up to £9,000 for their ITT courses, despite having already left university with three years of higher tuition fee and maintenance loans, has had a significant impact.
What’s more, the introduction of a plethora of new course and routes in to teaching has cause confusion in an already complex system of financial support options, training bursaries and salary eligibility criteria, which all change from one year to the next. If you introduce new ITT entry hurdles, it is hardly a surprise that many potential trainee teachers say that teaching isn’t the career for them.
Nevertheless, Government has recognised the need to widen the teacher training recruitment net and the introduction of Pre-ITT Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) programmes has helped to increase the number of potential applicants. These courses give applicants – particularly those with a degree that does not match their chosen ITT subject – the opportunity to up-skill and refresh their subject knowledge before entering the classroom, ensuring they are ready for ITT.
My biggest concern is the misrepresentation of teaching and teachers. The idea that you don’t need to qualify as a teacher to work in a classroom and become a good or outstanding teacher is nonsensical.
It’s a bizarre situation that, at a time when we want more and more young people to study, achieve higher levels of qualifications and find their way in to careers, that Government seems happy for the teachers of these young people to be talented amateurs as opposed to highly trained professionals.
On-the-job training is an essential part of teacher training and we support people who want to gain experience before qualifying through our Straight to Teaching programme. These people often make excellent teachers and have a real passion for the profession but we need to encourage them to gain qualified teachers status (QTS). I believe we can do this by opening up the routes to QTS for people who have existing teaching experience but want to stay working and earning in school while they gain their qualifications. By doing this, we can start to address some of the qualified teacher shortages across the country.
As we look ahead to the future and bid farewell to another year, my overarching prediction for 2015 is that the whole situation will undoubtedly worsen before, around and after the general election. We know that most parents expect that their children’s teachers are qualified, and rightly so.
It will be interesting to see how these, the very problems and issues that Governments “uncoordinated and clumsy reforms of the teacher training landscape” created in the first place, will continue to make an impact in the year ahead.
Jeremy Coninx is managing director at Hibernia College UK (HCUK), the teacher training company specialising in flexible online learning programmes and practical in-school tuition
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