The solution to our recruitment crisis is in our communities

By pulling together, we can create a new institution to offer progression pathways for people in and around our schools and nourish our public services

By pulling together, we can create a new institution to offer progression pathways for people in and around our schools and nourish our public services

10 May 2024, 5:00

In education, the NHS, policing, justice and social care, a doom loop of under-target recruitment and wicked retention challenges means staff are over-stretched and under pressure to meet multiple and complex needs. But what if we could come together to fix this ourselves?

At the Reach Foundation, we know stability, continuity, and coherence matter for all children, and especially those in our most under-resourced communities. But nationally, the demoralising reality is that staff shortages, high turnover, and lack of community representation in the workforce harm our ability to support those in need.

However, we believe schools and trusts are uniquely positioned to come together and pioneer a new Public Service Higher Education Institution. This new institution would establish pathways to graduate roles in schools for non-graduates in our communities.

Recognising the power of co-locating specialist resource for mental health, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy in schools, these pathways would prioritise a multi-disciplinary offer that develops specialist expertise across these domains.

We want to start with teaching. Schools spend approximately £4.4 billion each year on 281,100 teaching assistants (TAs), and yet there is not a clear, work-based route from that role into classroom teaching.  

According to data captured by The Engagement Platform (TEP), which collects termly data from all members of school staff, 25 per cent of TAs were dissatisfied with their development opportunities, compared to 18 per cent of teachers.

Some MATs and schools have invested considerable effort to design progression pathways. These include local validation agreements with universities to deliver high-quality but ultimately costly support to small cohorts of learners.

The pilot scheme for a Teacher Degree Apprenticeship (TDA) launching this autumn is a significant and promising new pathway. We believe there is potential to do more by offering multidisciplinary, modularised learning.

Our challenges demand systemic solutions, not individual efforts

However, the funding for providers to develop the TDA pilot course for secondary maths is poor (£12,500 per provider or partnership). In addition, the apprenticeship requirements (including trainees spending approximately 40 per cent of their working week at university studying towards their qualification) are rigid.

We want to build more pathways in collaboration with others. What would it look like for multiple MATS and schools to collaborate on a modular course design for TAs to move through specialised, multi-disciplinary pathways, with expert delivery in local regions and tailored support services optimised to support non-graduates through work-based learning?

As the support staff job market has shifted after Covid, with more part-time and flexible working options outside of schools, would offering accredited qualifications and structured pathways help attract more support staff? 

What would it mean for school and trust leaders to strategically plan for one, ten or one-hundred new teachers from the local community through a work-based, school-centred experience in five years? Our current students are our future workforce. How can we engage them in this thinking and planning?

The challenges we are facing in the sector demand systemic solutions, not individual efforts. Our ability to recruit, retain and support a diverse, culturally competent and highly skilled workforce will depend on innovative partnerships.

Rather than expecting individual MATs and schools to independently develop appropriate training and progression offers for their non-teaching workforce, we want to come together to facilitate meaningful collaboration that improves the quality of provision across the system.

If 2 per cent of FTE TAs started a well-structured modularised progression pathway annually, and then half of this cohort progressed through the programme to QTS (with others branching to other allied qualifications), school leaders would be workforce planning for just over 2,800 new teachers, largely from and committed to their local community, by 2030, every year.

The talent pool is even larger when we include other existing school staff providing pastoral support to students or sixth form leavers interested in a career in education.

If you are a MAT or school leader and would like to join the conversation, please get in touch. The power to move the dial in our schools is sitting in our communities.

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One comment

  1. Mark Rodgers

    What absolute nonsense! Fantastic last rubbish with Trusts seemingly trying to become the local authorities they easily disregard.

    The game’s up. The future is schools with teams unqualified people teaching a centralised heavily written focussed curriculum under the watchful eye of a teacher who is being highly pressured by a clueless, unsympathetic and overpaid SLT and Trust staff.