Today universities received their bidding allocations for 2018-19 teacher training. The process goes a little like this: At the end of an academic year, universities and schools direct partners bid for the maximum number of trainees they are allowed to recruit per subject to NCTL. So if I want, say, 20 maths trainees, I put 20 in a little box, and cross my fingers that a) NCTL let me have 20, and b) I can get 20 trainees.
In theory, if I meet or roughly meet my allocations, I’m pretty likely to get the same numbers approved next year (I still have to bid, it doesn’t roll over) – or even an increase if I’m feeling lucky. If I want new subjects or a relatively large increase in a particular subject, I have to write about why I think I deserve them. You might wonder why NCTL caps numbers at all, particularly with the current teacher shortages. In essence, part of this is down to allowing for fair competition across providers, and ensuring that areas that do not have particular shortages do not take on more teachers than the locality needs. However, this year (again), NCTL has effectively opened the floodgates and allowed all providers unlimited recruitment in all subjects (secondary and primary) apart from for PE (max 4 places) and salaried places. This seems to be an attempt to get as many new teachers into schools in September 2019 as humanly possible to help ease the explosive combination of falling recruitment, falling retention, and rising student numbers. To some extent this decision is of course welcome (although small providers will once again be pitching against large providers who can effectively just sponge up all the applicants in the area). That aside, more teachers trained = more progress gained (i made that up, you can keep it).
But of course there’s a but…
Opening the floodgates assumes there’s water waiting on the other side.
Furthermore, is there another strategy to try and cling on to our existing teachers? To fix the leaky dam that is perilously close to bursting? It seems to me there are a lot of people out there with a PGCE who aren’t in schools anymore, and a lot with one foot out the door.
No doubt we can expect a glossy tv campaign at some point soon boasting golden fleece salaries, perfect children and young spritely teachers laughing in well lit classrooms as their bunsun burner flickers under a test tube of mysterious fluorescent gunk.
When the advert finishes we can return to our newspapers to read about how kids today are a mess and it’s the fault of schools – and teachers need to teach more stuff like how to be a balanced member of society, and how to have British values (the old ones not the new ones). Then we can go to work the next day and feign surprise when a colleague tells us they’re packing it all in because they can make more money tutoring.
This juxtaposition of dragging down the profession in the media (and society), whilst simultanously celebrating the glossy career of teaching and pretending that part of the problem is that we are restricted by how many teachers we can train in one year does no-one any favours.
We need honest dialogue. We need more voices fighting our corner and celebrating what we do. We need to have that difficult conversation about how the decline in the perception of youth behaviour is also about parenting and the media instead of just using teachers as a piñata. We need bigger school budgets, continual structured subject specific training, competitive salaries and an overhaul of the nonsense pressures of unnecessary workload.
Make the job appealing and people will come look around. Maybe they’ll even stay a while.