Sunday, 6 September 2015

Observer letter on teacher shortages

Of course, as your editorial concluded, the government "urgently needs to do more to address the growing shortage of qualified teachers", but there is one possibility ignored in all of the various articles on the subject (Teacher shortage risks our children`s futures, 30/08/15). With the problem of teacher shortage exacerbating, does not the government`s reluctance to act simply suggest that it doesn`t care, especially as the emphasis on extending its "academies programme" not only increases the likelihood of more unqualified staff being appointed, but also of more schools being forced to academise because of below-average examination results?
     Considering a newly-qualified teacher faces the prospect of a maximum, though not guaranteed, 1% annual pay rise on the £22,244 salary, which works out after tax, national insurance and student loan repayment, at around £340 a week, it is not difficult to understand why postgraduates are not being attracted by a teaching career. Add into the mix the fact that the government is also unwilling to prevent private rents rising to whatever level greedy landlords desire, or to reduce the teachers` workload, now standing for many at 60 hours a week, and it becomes even easier to comprehend. Government initiatives, syllabus reforms and new targets all continue unabated, so your comment that now is the time for "teachers to revisit lesson plans" requires an amendment to "re-write"!
     It`s clearly not just that "teachers deserve credit for the great job" that most do, but that unadulterated praise is needed, and their opinions valued. The government should stop, immediately, taking advice from privately and Oxbridge educated "thinktankees" about what`s best for state schools; at least then, ridiculous suggestions from Policy Exchange about fining schools for pupils who fail to achieve C grades at English and Maths, could be ignored. It was a think tank, presumably, which also suggested that any school failing to achieve 60% 5 A*-C grades should be deemed "coasting" and therefore, academised. Anyone with knowledge of, and experience in, state education knows that there are many excellent schools, with good leadership and brilliant, hard-working staff, with results nowhere near 60%.
   The current situation, with huge recruitment and retention problems, can only get worse, unless there are immediate announcements about financial incentives, workload reductions and increased status for teachers. Sadly, what is far more likely is industrial action by teachers, and who can blame them?

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