Two blog posts in the TES are worth reading this evening. One is from Ellen Spencer and Bill Lucas, and is a well-argued piece about the impact on the country of restricting the “core curriculum” to those subjects covered by the EBacc. Debunking the idea that intellectual rigor is only present in the “core subjects” defined by the EBacc (English, Maths, Sciences, Humanities – specifically excluding RE – and Modern Languages) the authors point towards a narrowing of the national expectation of success by Russell Group universities, and thus, one suspects, by the Russell Group-educated ministerial team. I suspect that the proof of the usefulness of the EBacc will be whether Modern Languages teaching and learning quality goes up. One problem that they identify, which will be of interest to all parents, is whether a child that has had an abiding interest in the arts or music will be able to pursue it. In Lithuania, where I spent a study week in 2008, the town of Utena had both formal and informal arts provision. If a child loved the arts at school (and they were taught well, as far as we could see), they could go to a wonderful informal Art School after their lessons had ended, or to a very high quality music school. In other words, what was valued, the educational culture (and funding agencies) made provision for.
The second post worth reading is by Helen Ward and alerts educators to the position prevailing from today in many schools trying to train and recruit teachers, this at a time of serious national teacher shortage. Primary school SCITTs are being told to stop recruiting, and this in places (particularly the South East) where finding teachers is just really hard work. I know London schools whose classes are still staffed with HLTAs, even since September. Ward writes:
From today all primary training providers outside London that have taken on at least 75 per cent of last year’s numbers have had to stop recruiting trainees on to fee-charging School Direct or SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) schemes. Jo Palmer-Tweed, executive director of Essex and Thames Primary SCITT, which covers 128 schools, said: “The closure of primary recruitment to teacher training is potentially disastrous for our region. Our data shows that a large number of our schools will be unable to recruit the staff they need as a result.” The closures come because of a new government approach under which allocations for individual training providers have been scrapped. Instead there has been a free for all this year, with providers allowed to recruit as many trainees as they need until a national limit is reached.
This follows a report by the NAO that criticises government for the poor way that teacher recruitment has been handled. The response by the DfE is typically robust and politicised. The approach that the government has taken may result in enough bodies in classrooms, but the “free-for-all” approach means that quality and the staying power of teachers in schools is seriously in doubt. The summary of the NAO Report, entitled Training New Teachers says:
Indicators suggest that teacher shortages are growing.It is difficult on the basis of current data to quantify accurately the extent to which shortages exist. However, the recorded rate of vacancies and temporarily filled positions in state-funded schools has doubled between 2011 and 2014 from 0.5% of the teaching workforce to 1.2% (a figure the Department accepts is unlikely to reflect recruitment difficulties fully). In surveys and other sources, a significant proportion of school leaders have also reported difficulty recruiting newly qualified teachers. In secondary schools, more classes are now taught by teachers without a relevant post-A-level qualification in their subject. For example, the proportion of physics classes taught by a teacher without such qualifications rose from 21% to 28%between 2010 and 2014. Meanwhile, leaving rates for existing maths and science teachers are above average.