5th October 2023
World Teachers day 5th October 2023
“The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage”.
For many years, I have been increasingly aware of the teaching profession losing good people.
According to a recent Guardian article, ‘The latest workforce survey by the Department for Education (DfE) found that 40,000 teachers resigned from state schools last year – almost 9% of the teaching workforce, and the highest number since it began publishing the data in 2011 – while a further 4,000 retired.’
This makes worrying reading, but is sadly no surprise. I lead an incredible school which was recently graded as outstanding by OFSTED. I am lucky enough to work with a strong and dedicated team of teachers, support/admin and premises staff. We offer great resources and facilities, and a supportive and friendly environment. And yet, every year recruitment is not exactly plain sailing.
Like any Headteacher, I am looking for accomplished, hardworking and nurturing teachers. From a fairly narrow field, I have been extremely lucky in my recruitment. But I am always astonished that there aren’t more applications landing on my desk.
So, what can we do about this? The support that new teachers receive has already changed. A newly qualified teacher (NQT) used to get one year of support when they took up their first teaching post, to ease the transition from university to the workplace. This included a mentor, regular observations, training and 10% non-teaching time every week. This has now been extended to two years, with newly qualified teachers now called ECTs (Early Career Teachers). It is clearly a good move to extend support for teachers at the beginning of their careers, particularly at a time when teachers are most likely to throw in the towel. A Forbes article reports that in 2021, a record 1 in 6 teachers quit after the first year.
It goes on ‘Just three quarters are still in schools three years after qualifying, and just two thirds are still there six years after entering the classroom.’
I have been in the teaching profession for 28 years and have managed to hold on throughout all that time. There have, however, been times when I have felt like giving it all up. So, what is the answer to recruitment and retention? I can only tell you what we do at Connaught.
- Teachers receive more than 3 hours PPA per week (non-contact time for planning, preparation and assessment). This time out of class to get organised and regroup is invaluable.
- Marking is done at the point of teaching, verbal feedback being the most impactful. I don’t expect to see my staff dragging books out the door at the end of the day to mark at home.
- Staff are encouraged to speak up if they have a problem but to also bring a solution. Typically, my staff will say, ‘This has happened but I already know what I’m going to do about it.’
- There is an open, supportive and friendly culture at the school that is modelled by senior leaders. People step in and step up for each other all the time.
- We have lessened use of the term wellbeing and now talk more about job satisfaction. Most jobs are stressful but if you regularly remind yourself why you do this particular job, and hold on to those glimmers, it lessens the stress.
- Remembering how amazing children are to work with. Every day is different!
- And finally, our school dog Toffee, brings joy wherever she goes!
Staff retention at my school is high and I put that down to how we value and support our staff. So, whilst teaching can be stressful and overwhelming, working with children is the biggest privilege.
Headteacher of Connaught Junior School (part of The Alliance Multi-Academy Trust)
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