How to bring graduates into teaching [comment]

Cléo Fatoorehchi

Cléo Fatoorehchi was responsible for producing content and liaising with journalists at BESA, the British Educational Suppliers Association. She started as a women’s rights journalist before migrating into PR, in a child rights charity, and then in higher education at Universities UK International.

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Image credit: Flickr // Michele Nelson. Image credit: Flickr // Michele Nelson.

As more teachers have been leaving the workforce before retirement than ever, school leaders are currently facing a difficult time when it comes to filling up vacancies. In September, the National Audit Office (NAO) released a new report which highlighted that 67% of school leaders identify workload as an important barrier to teacher retention. A Department for Education survey found that middle leaders and classroom teachers work on average 54.4 hours per week, including on the weekend.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Schools are facing real challenges in retaining and developing their teachers, with growing pupil numbers and tighter budgets.”

However, many are those who believe that the government is not taking the right measures to solve the recruitment and retention crises. Dr Nicholas Breakwell, founder of TryTeaching, said: “It would appear that the actual number of hours of work is compounded by the constant change in curriculum, assessment and wider policy [brought about by government].”

Meanwhile, he noted that the government’s initiatives to attract new entrants to the workforce have not been effective because they were not targeting the right people in a way that would resonate with them. “New and recent graduates are and always have been the mainstay of new entrants to the profession. This is where the focus has to be,” he said, calling for the government to be innovative in its approach.

“Innovative thinking has to be around terms and conditions, flexible low-risk routes into the profession and getting in touch with the graduate mindset,” Breakwell said. “Today’s graduates have been sold the ‘dream’ of multiple careers, that a job is not “Innovative thinking has to be around terms and conditions.”for life. Teaching has not caught up with this agenda. Graduates are more risk-averse and less committed than before – they do not want to sign up to a lifetime career, which is how teaching is still portrayed.”

TryTeaching was started to bring a solution to this very issue. Breakwell explained: “TryTeaching seeks to remove these barriers to entry by offering graduates a paid internship, during which they can gain the confidence that teaching really is for them, and arrive at a place where they are able to make an informed decision that they are willing and able to make the commitment required.”

He added: “Clearly many graduates walked into teaching without making an informed decision, and that is what we are trying to avoid. It is our hope that graduates who gain QTS having first developed a real understanding of the profession will stay in the profession for many more years than those who are less informed.”

While this seems fair, it is yet to be seen if a similar approach will be adopted throughout the sector.

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