Teacher recruitment in crisis: creative solutions for weathering the storm

The teaching profession is under pressure like never before. Workload, red tape, excessive hours and pitiful pay are deterring people from joining the profession. At the same time recent years have seen record numbers of experienced teachers leaving. There’s a crisis looming with the number of experienced teachers in the profession, and the pressure on school budgets is huge.

With the pressure to recruit experienced teachers mounting, alongside squeezes on budgets, some schools are still managing to come up with creative ways to support their pupils. Utilising the teaching skills of teachers across the world, Pakeman Primary School in north London are using a service offered by Third Space Learning to support pupils struggling with maths. The on-line one-to-one maths lessons are with tutors based in India and Sri Lanka. Finding creative solutions to weather the storm is essential if schools want to seriously flourish.

Teacher recruitment: the facts

According to figures released by the Department of Education in June last year there’s a worrying trend of experienced teachers leaving the profession. While the Department of Education puts a positive spin on the figures, citing a further 2,000 teachers joining the profession between 2014 and 2015, there appears to be a lack of acknowledgment of the impact an increase in the number of experienced teachers deciding to quit will have on teaching standards.

London Teaching Agency, Red Box recently reported in an article with Mike James, that qualified teacher leave rates have risen from 8.9% in 2011 to 10% in 2015. While the entrant level also increased (in 2011 the qualified teacher entrants rate was 9%, rising to 10.5% in 2015), the balance of experience is slowly being eroded.

Colin Harris, in an article for TES (Times Education Supplement), argues workload, pitiful pay and respect for the profession is at an all-time low. He says he’d like to be optimistic about the future of teaching, but his impression at the moment is that no-one wants to be a teacher. In his job Harris travels the country trying to recruit teachers for his successful local authority (Hampshire), but his experience makes for depressing reading. He’s not finding it easy to find qualified teachers.

Harris goes on to say, “A survey by YouGov in October 2015 found that half of all teachers were considering leaving the profession in the next year, with 61% citing workload as the main reason and 57% saying they wanted a better work life balance.” The institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2020 we will need an additional 30,000 new teachers. According to Harris the figures don’t add up, and he argues we are not training anywhere near enough teachers.

School budgets in crisis

A recent report in The Guardian by Laura McInerney cites the hidden funding crisis facing schools. The report says NHS cuts are being seen, whereas the cuts in schools are less visual, although just as dire, and causing incremental damage to children.

At the end of 2016, The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on school finances stating that schools will need to find a saving of £3 billion by 2020, equating to an 8% reduction in funding. Meanwhile pupil numbers are set to rise with a projected 600,000 pupils in the education system over the next five years.

Creative solutions

Many schools up and down the country are struggling to work with the current curved balls they are being thrown. Finding good teachers and retaining them, whilst balancing the newly qualified entrants with experienced ones is something a good head teacher will know is important to the success of the school. Maintaining that amidst a crisis in teacher recruitment and in the face of funding squeezes, requires steely determination and creative solutions.

Online tutoring

It feels hard to stay positive given the growing crisis in teacher recruitment and cuts in educational funding, but for some schools at least it seems where there’s a will there’s a way. As schools like Pakeman Primary are demonstrating, they are tapping non-conventional resources to make sure pupils make positive progress, without relying on recruiting specialist staff. While there is a cost to the online tutoring service, it could be a more economical and target-driven answer to maintaining pupil development in an era of such uncertainty.

Recruit from abroad

Andrew Morrish, chief executive of Victoria Academies and executive head teacher at Victoria Park Academy in the West Midlands has been here before. In a report by Thomas Rogers for TES, Morrish hints that times have been harder. In 2002 he filled a recruitment gap by convincing a London supply agency to pay him to go to Cape Town, South Africa. He came back having recruited several teachers.

It’s not the long term answer, and is subject to immigration laws and controls, but balancing the recruitment crisis with getting the right person for the job is forcing schools to think outside of the box.

Retaining staff

Investing wisely in staff and training and developing teachers is more important today than it has ever been. Andrew Morrish, executive head teacher at Victoria Park Academy says “invest wisely in training and developing staff so that they don’t want to leave.”

Links with charities

A recent report in The Guardian has highlighted the crucial role charities are playing in the education system. According to The Guardian report, in terms of developing the teaching profession and addressing inequality in education, charities are popping into the fray.

Greenhouse Sports is a charity committed to using sport to help young people living in the inner city of London realise their full potential. The charity assigns sports coaches to work full-time in mainstream schools in the most deprived areas of London. The coaches act as mentors, as well as sporting experts. The project is proving extremely successful using sport to deter children from expulsion and joining gangs. It’s giving young adults who volunteer for the charity a taste of teaching and a chance to develop leadership skills too.