Recruitment and retention

Diversity is key to tackling the recruitment crisis

Who we recruit, how we equip them and the routes towards qualification must all be broadened to attract and retain the workforce we need, explains Leila MacTavish

Who we recruit, how we equip them and the routes towards qualification must all be broadened to attract and retain the workforce we need, explains Leila MacTavish

4 Nov 2023, 4:56

Training teachers has never been easy, but with one-third of new recruits now leaving the profession within five years despite the introduction of the early career framework (ECF), it can feel like the sector is still missing a trick with regards to how it treats its newest talent.

Ark Teacher Training was established in 2013 and has been a part of the rise of school-based training models. We have grown significantly, not just in terms of the number of recruits we can train, (up from 50 to 200 per year) but in the areas we work too. Initially, our trainees were based in Ark’s 39 schools in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Hastings. Now, we partner with other trusts and schools. In recent years, our hybrid training has been delivered to trainees in schools across the country, including the Isle of Wight, Torquay, Birmingham, Bradford and Middlesborough. In fact, this year we are working with as many schools outside the Ark network as within it.

We have also been part of the movement to get the best evidence-informed practice into schools. Our team of 24 subject and phase specialist tutors, many of whom are former senior leaders and headteachers, are passionate about equipping trainees with the most effective practice from day one. We continue to work to build the evidence base around what effective initial teacher training (ITT) looks like. This year, all our ATT trainees have the exciting opportunity to get involved in teacher training research with Ambition Institute. The project, led by Dr Sam Sims, will look at the importance of feedback in the ITT curriculum and behaviour management.

At heart we are a group of teachers, so we never rest on our laurels. We know we must work harder to get the right people into the classroom and help them stay there. We are pushing to reflect the changes we want to see in the makeup of the wider teaching population.

This year is our most diverse cohort yet, with 38 per cent of trainees coming from ethnic backgrounds traditionally under-represented in classrooms. Thirty-one percent of trainees have additional needs, neurodiversity or disabilities. We are also delighted that eight former Ark students are training with us this year.  

38 per cent of trainees come from under-represented backgrounds

In 2020, Ark Teacher Training set a goal to ground our trainee curriculum in anti-bias practices. Our curriculum includes sessions about unconscious bias and its impact on high expectations, teacher radar and interactions with parents and caregivers. Resources tackle deficit-based thinking and prompts for how to create more inclusive classroom resources. We also strive to implement structures, policies and practices with inclusive methods for ourselves and our trainees.

We know that being an adaptive teacher is part of being a great practitioner, so we have changed our teacher evaluation framework to reflect this. We place trainees in special education as well as mainstream settings, giving them invaluable experience that will develop their practice in all schools. This year, we are thrilled to be liaising more closely with special education experts, designing workshops aligned with our areas of intensive training and working with children with specific needs. This will support trainees to further reflect on how to be adaptive practitioners as their knowledge and skills develop. 

Importantly, we must also work to remove financial barriers to joining the profession. We know there are people who would love to become teachers but simply can’t afford to train. Recent changes to funding and a preference for the apprenticeship route have not been without their challenges.

We have been pleased to diversify entrance routes, but we have concerns. The funding imbalance for apprentices, the additional costs for assessment and the apprenticeship regulations create additional burdens and barriers for both the apprentice provider and the participant.

That said, we are determined to find new ways that work for schools and trainees to fund and deliver training. 

There’s is much still to do, but the progress we have made in the past ten years makes me hopeful about the future. If we can continue to attract and equip a diverse group of committed recruits into the profession, the sector will be in safe hands.

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