Keith Morrow, Headmaster at The Elms Junior School and Nursery which is the junior school to Trent College, says headlines around teacher retention and recruitment hide a much more complex picture, that differs across regions and the entire education sector.
Morrow has revealed his five-point ‘wish list’ to restore teaching as an attractive and valued career proposition, after the launch of a new Government TV campaign to address the current teacher shortage crisis last month.
In September, Ofsted warned the number of people entering teacher training had fallen 17% – almost a fifth – over the past five years. This is against a backdrop of higher teacher demand, with predictions that pre-16 pupil numbers are likely to increase from 7.24m in 2015 to 7.85m in 2020.
The new Government advert aims to attract a ‘new generation of passionate and gifted teachers’ and encourage more applications, saying that 35,000 trainee teachers need to be recruited every year. But Mr Morrow believes unless there is cultural change in attitudes towards, and appreciation of, the teaching profession then issues with retention will remain.
He said: “Having spent the last 15 years as a Head in three very different types of schools, I can identify in some ways with the strains and stresses on teachers. Schools, and therefore teachers, have become responsible for putting right society’s ills, from cooking healthy meals to the radicalisation of young people.
“But if we want to raise academic standards and achieve success, we have to realise teachers are only part of the solution and we cannot expect successful outcomes by simply adding to their responsibilities.”
The wish list includes celebrating teaching, with everyone in the profession talking up the wonderful aspects of their jobs; the differences they can make to young people’s lives, the joy of working with inquisitive young minds, the rewards of helping young people achieve their dreams.
He believes the teaching profession and those working in schools should be rewarded with more attractive salaries to make teachers feel valued and to improve their status in society, while supporting and resourcing teaching to enable teachers to succeed, for example in relation to class sizes, SEN support services and English skills programmes for pupils for whom English is a second language, is paramount.
Mr Morrow also insists teachers, parents and society have to be more realistic about what can be achieved in a classroom and that reform of the inspection regime, to include peer review and to get away from what he describes as the ‘blame culture’ of inspection, is key. He added: “Whatever the sector, primary or secondary, independent or state, it is in our common interest to ensure that retaining the best teachers and recruiting new bright young minds into the profession is given the prominence it deserves. Discussions on what more we can do to attract and retain the most committed and talented individuals into the profession are healthy.
“Despite the challenges, if I were choosing my career again, without a doubt I’d still enter the teaching profession and encourage others to give it serious consideration. There is no job like it!”