As we celebrated World Teachers’ Day on 5th October, messages of support and appreciation for teachers and the inspiring yet challenging job they are doing inundated social media. However, the latest OECD Education at a Glance report found that teachers in the UK have seen their salaries drop by 12% in real terms between 2005 and 2015.
The low pay is not the only obstacle to recruiting and retaining teachers: earlier this year, the Teacher Development Trust revealed that over 20,000 teachers worked in schools with no budget for continued professional development (CPD).
Claire Duggan, Operations Director of BESA member Focus Education, recognised the need for CPD for teachers as an “essential resource in schools” that should be guaranteed to ensure teachers have up-to-date knowledge and can develop their thinking and teaching practice.
“With the extreme lack of budgets in schools and the fact that many schools are at crisis point, it is very difficult for teachers to access CPD,” she told BESA. “As staff in schools reduce – again, due to lack of funding – there may well not be the budget to cover people’s lessons while they are out, or the Teaching Assistants in schools to cover lessons.”
The increasing workload of teachers is also hindering their access to CPD. In an October 2016 report, the Education Policy Institute noted that England’s teachers only spend an average of four days a year on CPD.
To help schools overcome these challenges and train their teachers appropriately, Focus Education has adapted its consultancy service to schools’ needs. For example, it reduced its training fees in 2016 with the launch of Focus Hubs, where training takes place at school venues with training rooms, good facilities and parking, instead of expensive hotels and sporting grounds.
Claire mentioned to BESA that she also encourages schools to partner with other local schools to share costs, as she has seen first-hand how much school funding has depleted over the past few years. To support schools to get the best value for money, Focus Education started a rewards scheme for schools, too.
In these difficult times, Focus Education is dedicated to helping schools deliver the world-leading education that the UK is renowned for. “We will do anything we can to help schools,” said Claire. “We’ve been trading for 25 years and this is the worst it’s ever been for schools. Many of our consultants have been heads and they work in schools with heads every single day; they understand the challenges they are facing. This level of dedication is typical of BESA members, who have just agreed an updated Code of Practice stating that members act “with the aim of being in the best interests of learners, educators, parents and staff”.
All BESA members commit to the Code of Practice, which now includes safeguarding and data protection as these are two growing issues in the 21st-century classroom. This is testament to BESA members’ desire to ensure they are always at the forefront of offering the highest quality of products and services to schools around the world, and providing a world-class customer experience.