Teacher supply: Education Select Committee

On the 19th of October 2016, the Education Select Committee held their final meeting on teacher supply. Launched last October to explore whether England is facing a teacher supply crisis, initial written evidence led to a further three oral evidence sessions.

The final meeting was an insightful three hours and though nothing new or radical was suggested, it was good to hear the government is listening to the concerns about recruitment & retention of teaching staff. The witnesses at the meeting were:

  • David Anstead - Strategic Lead, Nottingham Education Improvement Board
  • Dame Alison Peacock – Headteacher and CEO designate, College of Teaching
  • Peter Sellen - Chief Economist, Education Policy Institute.
  • Jack Worth - Research Manager, National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)

Recruitment and retention

This was one of the key themes of the discussion and a concern for all the witnesses.

The consensus seemed to suggest that recruitment was still a problem however retention was becoming a bigger issue.  A Nottingham survey of teachers found over 30% cited workload as a reason for wanting to leave as well as coping with student behaviour.

Feeling supported by management is really important for staff. Alison Peacock was keen to point out that ‘Headteachers set the weather of the school’ and that they must also have support networks to help them.

This is something we provide with our Headspace & Yourspace programmes. These offer a safe and confidential environment where Headteachers, Deputy or Assistant Heads can explore the most effective leadership behaviours and learn from each other, using action-learning and problem-solving techniques.

We also know the value of support as a result of research being conducted for us by an academic at Birkbeck university. This identified that supportive leadership is vital in helping individuals and organisation cope with the pressures faced by the education sector.  Other key points included:

  • Government needs to be on top of recruitment to ensure there are enough qualified teaching staff as secondary schools are about to see a big uplift in student numbers
  • Those in STEM subjects can find jobs which are less demanding with a much more attractive offer and therefore it is easy for them to leave the sector
  • Policy makers also need to look at:
    • helping women with children in the profession
    • development for support staff to train as teachers
    • how to welcome teachers back after a break from the profession

Workload

Recent workload reviews have provided a great contribution to the debate on workload. However it was felt that teachers still feel under pressure and the reports now need to be actioned.

David Anstead, who has worked on the Nottingham Workload Charter, highlighted that many schools in Nottingham had signed up to the charter which involved working no more than 2 hours extra after school a day. Many schools across the country had been in touch, interested in the charter and how it works.

Unnecessary workload such as administration is taking teachers away from their core time with pupils and planning and marketing. This is impacting on retention levels.

We have a lot of information on our website to help teachers tackle workload challenges which offer practical tips and advice.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Research shows that 60% of teachers say time is currently a barrier to CPD, with many of those that do having to use their weekends to do training. It was felt that CPD needs to be both national and regional to meet teacher’s needs.

OFSTED

It was felt that the fear of OFSTED causes workload rather than OFSTED itself. In addition teachers’ behaviour is driven by what they think OFSTED want to see. This often does not match the reality.

Other themes

Other key themes included a general feeling that there needs to be a shift in the culture in education to ‘positive rather than blame’.

This is something we have had feedback about which is why we launched a #LoveTeaching campaign on World Teachers’ Day to encourage the sharing of positive stories and thoughts about teaching.

Witnesses also felt there was a need to build knowledge and share best practise of what works rather than individually solving problems in each classroom.

In addition the idea that each school should have a designated wellbeing and workload champion was raised. This is something with which we would wholeheartedly agree. We provide a 24/7 confidential helpline for anyone in the education sector who needs emotional support.

Next steps

Following on from the questioning of the four witnesses, Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, faced questioning from the committee about the work the Department for Education is carrying out in relation to teacher shortages. This has been summarised in TES.

The inquiry into teacher supply has now finished, but not without some homework for Gibb, who has to follow up with some more evidence for the committee to review.

Commenting on the meeting, Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership said: 

"It’s positive to see government looking at these issues but we know that action is urgently needed. From the thousands of staff we support we know, that retention is a growing issue. There are many factors for this but in a YouGov poll last year, 24% of those surveyed told us they felt that unreasonable demands from line managers would be to blame for their likely departure from education in the next 5 years."

"Helping school leaders and managers to better manage and better understand and support their teaching staff to keep them happy, well and in their jobs for longer is an essential part of the solution and as outlined, we offer many ways for schools to invest in its staff and leadership teams. At the same time, policymakers need to look at ways to make teaching with its many positives, a more attractive sector to stay in or return to. So many tell us they love teaching but the workload and extreme pressure is driving them out. This applies to all those responsible for teachers - headteachers, school governors, and the many different organisations charged with running schools."