I have been a teacher for 30 years, a Headteacher for 15 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about solving the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.
For a long time now I have been articulating this very simple argument:
- We can take it as a given that we all want pupils to make good progress in their learning.
- It is generally accepted that the quality of teaching is the most influential factor in determining the rate at which pupils make progress in their learning – broadly speaking, the better the teaching, the more progress pupils make over time.
- The new curriculum at primary and the new specifications at GCSE & A level are significantly more academically challenging than their predecessors.
- It follows, logically, then, that the best thing for our pupils is to be taught by well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers.
- School leaders need to create a culture where the staff are looked after first, because that will give us the best chance to recruit and retain well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers, which is the best thing for our pupils.
If I am wrong, please someone correct me.
To attract well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers to join the profession, we have to create working conditions which are something like those articulated below by the American educator Roland S. Barth, a copy of which I was given by a colleague at Hove Park, Wayne Jones; I have had it posted on my office wall for the last 25 years:
A Personal Vision of an Idealised School Culture
Roland S Barth
‘I would welcome the chance to work in a school characterised by a high level of collegiality, a place teeming with frequent, helpful personal and professional interactions. I would become excited about life in a school where a climate of risk taking is deliberately fostered and where a safety net protects those who may risk and stumble. I would like to go each day to a school to be with other adults who genuinely wanted to be there, who really chose to be there because of the importance of their work to others and to themselves. I would not want to leave a school characterised by a profound respect for, and encouragement of, diversity, where important differences among children and adults were celebrated rather than seen as problems to remedy. For 190 days each year, I would like to attend an institution that accorded a special place to philosophers who constantly examine and question and frequently replace embedded practices by asking ‘why’ questions. And I could even reside for a while in a laundry dryer if accompanied by a great deal of humour that helps bond the community by assisting everyone through tough moments. I’d like to work in a school that constantly takes note of the stress and anxiety level on the one hand and standards on the other, all the while searching for the optimal relationship of low anxiety and high standards.’
At a time when there is a very real shortage of well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers, school leaders would do well to review their organisations’ policies and ask themselves whether their policies are conducive to recruiting and retaining well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers; if they are not, then they might change the policies until they are conducive to recruiting and retaining well qualified, highly motivated, hard-working, happy, healthy, well trained, expert teachers.
Below are the first and last slides of a talk I am giving at the moment; at least some of the answers to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis are in school leaders’ hands.