“…the biggest threat to teacher recruitment is that the teaching unions and others, use every opportunity to talk down teaching as a profession...’
Department for Education spokesperson, Schools Week
Talking down teaching no doubt refers to teachers raising concerns about workload But teaching workload, always high, has been increased by a constant barrage of Government imposed reforms and changes to Ofsted criteria.
What caused a DfE ‘spokesperson’ to lash out in this way? The answer is the National Audit Office report into Teacher Recruitment. As Schools Week says in its summary, the NAO has answered the question ‘Is the DfE offering value for money?’ with a resounding ‘no’.
Retention is a threat to teacher supply, the NAO said. If more teachers leave than are recruited then the pool of teachers begins to evaporate.
Over half of trainee teachers who started in 2015/16* are in universities. These trainees don’t seem to have been deterred by Government rhetoric about university teacher training departments being the spawn of the Blob.
Just 5% of trainees who began training in 2015/16 were via Teach First. This route, the Government claims, is the ‘elite’ path into teaching. But the NAO said Teach First was the most expensive route and a significant proportion of teachers trained via Teach First left after just two years.
The NAO said recent reforms to teacher training didn’t provide training providers with a ‘clear, stable basis on which to plan for the long term’. The DfE’s approach was ‘short-term’. This chimes with the comment by the Education Select Committee chair that the DfE’s style was ‘act first; think later’.
‘Degree class is a reasonable indicator of subject knowledge but a less clear predictor of other aspects of teacher quality’, the NAO wrote. In other words, having a degree doesn’t necessarily result in good teaching. That’s not to say degree level knowledge isn’t important – it is. But to say a degree alone qualifies someone for teaching, as the Government did when it allowed academies to recruit teachers without Qualified Teacher Status, is wrong. Teaching is an intellectual activity and needs to be underpinned by high-quality teacher education.
One route into teaching not considered was Troops to Teachers (TtF). The NAO said TtF had ‘too few trainees’. TtF was a high profile initiative introduced by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary. ‘Hundreds of battle-hardened ex-soldiers are to be drafted into classrooms to improve discipline and tackle yobs’ was a typical media response. But only 32 teachers have qualified under TtF: this is lower than the number of ex-forces personnel entering teaching before TtF was launched, wrote Private Eye (5 February 2016, not available on-line).
ANOTHER NAO REPORT – warning for Government officials accepting dubious freebies
The NAO’s investigation into Government officials accepting gifts and hospitality found most of these were ‘justifiable in the normal course of business’. However, the NAO was sniffy about accepting such things as bottles of bubbly and tickets for sporting events. Perhaps Michael Gove will stop accepting free tickets to watch soccer matches especially when the donor, Len Blavatnick has been described as a ‘Kremlin-friendly tycoon’. Private Eye asked Blavatnick’s company, Access Industries, why it was taking a Government minister to a football match but answer came there none (5 February 2016).