The government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy has been warmly welcomed in most quarters, but David Spendlove finds it seriously lacking
The Early Career Framework launched by Damian Hinds on Monday has been described as “bold” and as “game changer” so why do I see it as a low cost, low ambition gesture?
Firstly, let us be clear about this disconnected, fragmented, piecemeal, hodgepodge of policies crying out for the sector to embrace them. This loosely connected framework as part of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy is not driven by compassion for teachers or through a desire to restore the image of the profession. No, quite simply this is a series of policies to address the serious haemorrhaging of early career teachers from the profession who continue to vote with their feet.
Secondly, the detail in the framework is so thin that there has to be some waiting to see what the policies actually entail but the lack of detail in how the funding is going to be distributed is an immediate concern.
The bottom line is £130 million does not go far when shared across 30,000 new entrants to the profession. Equally, as yet it is not clear exactly what will come out of that pot of money. However even just guaranteeing 10 per cent timetable reduction in their first year of induction and 5 per cent off-timetable in the second year of teaching for all early career teachers isn’t going to leave a great deal of money remaining if this is genuinely fully costed and funded.
The government is simply kicking the can down the road
Thirdly, it is great to hear that funding and time for early career mentoring and training, presumably from the £130 million, is going to be provided but as well as asking what does this mean exactly we also need to ask how are we going to double or even treble the number of mentors needed?
Across my 20 years of involvement in initial teacher education, finding, developing and retaining mentors has always been a huge challenge. The reality is there simply aren’t enough good quality mentors out there who have the time to do their role properly. Securing mentors for the induction year and possibly the second year of teaching is going to be a huge struggle. Equally, will those who mentor early career teachers be deserting initial teacher education trainees?
Finally, this is a retention policy focussed primarily on those early in their careers that does little to address recruitment targets which the government have failed to meet for the last six years.
Once again the government is mistakenly basing their solutions upon naïve market principles, treating teachers as a commodity, which have failed to address recruitment and retention problems for the last decade. The payments to a minority of teachers of £5,000 tax-free payments in both their third and fifth years of teaching – rising to £7,500 for teachers working in more “challenging” schools once again fails to recognise teaching as a collegiate profession. In providing these notional deferred incentives the government is simply kicking the can down the road whilst failing to address the pay and resourcing needs for the entire sector.