Are birthday cards to ex-pupils the solution to the teacher recruitment crisis?

Schools should send their former pupils birthday cards to encourage them to become teachers, according to the government’s teacher training tsar Sir Andrew Carter.

Carter, the chief executive of the South Farnham School Educational Trust in Surrey and an adviser to the government on teacher training, told a Westminster Education Forum event today that schools should make better efforts to keep in touch with former pupils.

Given that at least 35,000 trainee teachers are needed each year, schools must act to steer leavers towards the profession when they are old enough, he told delegates.

“How many of you send your pupils a birthday card on their 19th birthday, saying ‘how are you, how is university’, or whatever they’re doing? And how many of you send them a card on their 21st birthday, saying ‘are you leaving university? Would you like to be a teacher?'”

After maintaining a relationship with ex-pupils in their late teens and early twenties, schools should offer them access to either apprenticeship or school-based routes into teaching, said Carter, who led a recent government review into initial teacher training and has helped to pioneer the first ever teaching apprenticeship.

“Offer them jobs!” he said.

international QTS
Sir Andrew Carter

Dismal figures show that the government continues to miss recruitment targets for initial teacher training in all EBacc subjects except history, particularly in maths, physics and computing.

Today, Carter reminded delegates that making contact with ex-pupils isn’t “very arduous” a task: “A computer can do this for you.”

If every school in the country trains one teacher, then two thirds of all required trainee teachers would have been found. If every school trains two teachers, “then we’ve got a surplus”.

Schools should also have a section on their website which invites visitors to consider teaching.

“If I visited your school today, and your school website, would there be a link to being a teacher? Is there a way of knowing if I went to your school who I should speak to?” he asked.

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  1. Mark Watson

    No of course it’s not THE answer to the recruitment answer and I’d bet my house it was never stated to be THE answer.
    What this seems to be however was a suggestion that staying in touch with former pupils might (note that’s “might”) increase the chances of them becoming teachers. As the article notes, this should be a low-cost low-effort activity and quite frankly it sounds a good idea to me.
    How to encourage more people into teaching is a complicated issue with no single answer, and there will be many sensible (and some not-so-sensible) ideas for how to increase numbers.
    The headline writer though presumably just wants to encourage people to sneer at Andrew Carter and make comments along the lines of “if this is all they’ve got we need someone else”.