The TES reports UCAS’ data that there is a big drop in teacher recruitment this year, as measured by the large reduction in applicants for teacher training in England and Wales by December 2017 than at this time last year. The shortfall is reported as 6510 applicants – about one third down on the number the previous year. The NAHT have been campaigning on this for a long time, and of course it is a really significant problem. More children into schools, unevenly spread around the country, and fewer new teachers to replace the flood who decide that they have had enough each year, are just the start of the problem. The number of confusing routes into education provide more barriers than they remove, and the concentration of students into the schools served by the teaching school alliances, mean that many schools’ ability to recruit is hindered locally by the landscape of teacher training – MK is a hotch-potch of basically four teaching schools (3 local, one in Buckingham) and two universities (Northampton and Bedfordshire) plus some smaller providers here and there. The (private) University of Buckingham brags that it one of the largest providers of teaching students in the country, but I never see them in MK state schools, because of the ridiculous divide between private and public education in this country: I wonder how much we are losing out by not engaging there? I am convinced they have much to teach us.
However, back to my main bug-bear of teaching quality: are we guaranteeing that our new teachers are well-enough educated to be the intellectual leadership of young children coming through schools? And to be honest, the answer has to be no at the moment. This is the fault of our own education system, which manages to get an underwhelming 85% of children to a functionally literate state, of a daft and unimaginative curriculum which has made hardly any progress since 1992 and which tests many of the wrong things, and large numbers of school leaders who can only see the current curriculum and testing framework as the means to success. Why would you bother to acculturate your teachers if you did not want them to be anything more than churners-out of improving SATS scores?
Building such a school, and educating and expecting teachers to have a broader intellectual outlook, is part of my job. But it won’t get more teachers into schools. That’s the government’s job.