Opening the floodgates

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.


4 thoughts on “Opening the floodgates

  1. To be fair, you would have to go some to make more as a tutor. But you can make enough to make it a rational choice. I have only just begun tutoring, a mixture of private clients and funded alternative provision, and since the return to school in September I have almost enough students to be able to make cover house hold bills, etc. without hitting the savings – although my wife has had to take on more hours. Also no pension or holiday pay. I had been teaching full time for over ten years but ‘decided’ to give it up in April, at 53 because of the stress.

    Tutoring has allowed me to see again why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. It has also given me the chance to regain my passion for the subject (though even in the bad times it remained pretty high) and to teach in a way that best suits the student. But the best thing not having to second guess managers.

    Tutoring has allowed me to keep my toe in the water, and I might even consider going back to class teaching. But not as it stands at the moment.


    • Thanks Phil. The comment wasn’t intended as a slight on tutoring, but I do know of some people who have cited this as a reason for leaving teaching. I guess the general point was more about people seeking jobs with a different balance.

      • Yes I understand it wasn’t a slight, and none was taken. I was quite surprised how quickly it picked up. I only planned for it to tie me over until I re-skilled so I could look at doing something in e learning. Now I might just stick with face to face teaching

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