The teaching sector is facing a recruitment crisis like no other, says Prof Lynne McKenna

The future of the teaching profession, and thus the education of our nation’s children, is in serious jeopardy

The teaching profession, once the heroes of the pandemic, is once again finding itself under enormous pressure, according to Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland.

Prof McKenna has expressed serious concern about the challenges currently facing education providers in a sector still trying to play catch-up from the pandemic.

Speaking to more than 100 Department for Education (DfE) staff at an online DfE Women’s Network, Professor McKenna outlined the obstacles which she warned were contributing to what has become known as the ‘Great Resignation’ of teachers from the profession. She said: “For school leaders, the challenges are clearly around catch-up and recovery as the world emerges from the pandemic.

“Our children have had over two years of disruption to their education. Of course, school leaders are managing this at a time in education where teachers are feeling rather bruised, battered and exhausted.

“Once the heroes of the pandemic, the teaching profession is once again finding itself under enormous pressure, with increased workloads and bureaucracy.

“All these factors are contributing to what is being known as the ‘Great Resignation’, as experienced teachers are leaving the profession and there are not enough new teachers to replace them.

“Alongside this, there is an unprecedented decline in initial teacher training (ITT) applications which means the sector is facing a teacher recruitment crisis like no other. This at a point in time when we need teachers most to support with the recovery of ‘lost learning’.”

ITT disruption

Professor McKenna highlighted the disruption that had been caused to providers of ITT due to the implementation of new DfE requirements: “ITT providers have endured four major disruptions which have been distracting to their own operation and to recruitment.

“There has been the unnecessary and inexplicable market review of ITT, the creation of the Institute of Teaching, the requirement for ITT providers go through a nonsensical accreditation process in order to deliver ITT from 2024, and changes to the Ofsted inspection framework, which has resulted in more than half of providers inspected under the new framework being artificially downgraded.

“Added to this, there has been the introduction of the ‘golden thread of teacher development’ which includes the introduction of the Core Content Framework (CCF) for ITT), the introduction of the Early Career Framework (ECF) which is a structured two-year induction into the profession, and a suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs).

“The ECF requires schools to provide a mentor for early career teachers. While I wholeheartedly agree with and support the Early Career Framework, schools are experiencing difficulty in providing mentor support.

“The capacity to release teaching staff to mentor new teachers entering the profession, and trainee teachers on school experience, placements is severely constrained due to pressures on staffing within schools. Schools are therefore prioritising mentor support for ECTs rather than those undertaking initial teacher training. This is all contributing to a crisis in initial teacher training.

“Consequently, the future of the teaching profession, and thus the education of our nation’s children, is in serious jeopardy and will have far-reaching effects for years to come.

“We look forward to further embedding the CCF with our school and college partners, supporting schools and colleges with the early career framework and working with our partner teaching school hubs to promote the new NPQs. “Of course, there are opportunities ahead. For us at the University of Sunderland, we have much to look forward to. We have the introduction of a new BA (Hons) Primary Education with SEND which has been developed with our school partners. Most importantly, we are delighted that we are one of the pilot providers of International Teacher Qualified Status (iQTS).

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate that in the UK, and particularly in Sunderland, we truly are a world-leading provider of initial teacher training. We have much to be proud of and to look forward to in the future.”

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