Gavin Williamson told NASUWT that the government needs “to go further, faster” to improve the professional training offered to teachers to “ensure every teacher benefits”. Teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers but who is to blame?
At NASUWT’s annual teaching union conference, the education secretary acknowledged that more should be done for the professional training and wellbeing of teachers at all points of their careers, as it seems that too many teachers are leaving the profession.
He highlighted that “far too many teachers leave within the first five years of joining the profession” and added that “every teacher who leaves the profession is a loss that we can ill afford”.
NASUWT’s leader Dr Patrick Roach urged that teachers needed “practical support for that job to be sustainable” instead of “more training”.Where would more training fit into a teacher’s already swarming schedule?
The idea of more teacher training is not new. The government announced a plan for a new suite of NPQs in early 2019, in the hope that the boost in professional development and training would reduce the number of teachers leaving. Williamson believes in the “career-long development from trainee teacher through to executive headship.” He didn’t want to “pre-empt” Sir Kevan Collins’ (education recovery commissioner) recovery plans but he did confirm training and development would “feature strongly”.
He said: “The single most important factor in schooling, the one that everything hinges on is always the quality of teaching,”.
Roach said the hyper focus on training suggests that “somehow teachers were part of the problem”.
He observes that “now we’re being told that actually teachers need to be either more competent or more resilient” when “Actually, teachers have demonstrated their competence, they’ve demonstrated their resilience. They’ve been tested to the limit. They haven’t been found wanting,”.
“What I would have wanted to have heard from the secretary of state is a recognition of that”.
“Whilst it is welcome that the education secretary has at least accepted there is a problem of teacher retention, he must explain how he intends to remedy the full range of problems facing the profession.”
Geoff Barton from the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) expressed his disappointment with the government saying “Governments are pretty woeful when it comes to making things happen,”.
In his speech at the union’s virtual annual conference, Barton relayed the recovery plan taken after the Second World War which included the raising of the school leaving age and a commitment to training up teachers.
He voiced that the efforts were driven by “the reforming zeal of a small, bold cadre of politicians”.
“This pandemic has shown that – unlike after WW2 – we no longer look to our politicians to solve national problems,” the ASCL general secretary said.
Williamson thanked teachers “for the huge lengths you have gone to, to keep everyone in your school and wider community safe”.
He said the pandemic had meant “coming together and working together in ways we haven’t necessarily done before”, claiming he “always values” speaking to heads, teachers “and of course to unions. But now more so than ever”.
Union leaders reveal they have not been consulted before the government made crucial decisions.
Roach said there “had been no engagement” at the start of the first lockdown, until the government “found itself in a hole, there was an attempt at engagement”.
He warned that his members would “not be impressed by the education secretary’s praise of teachers whilst he fails to address the many serious issues impacting on their morale and working conditions and whilst also continuing to insist that teachers’ pay should be frozen this year”
“Dialogue is one thing, but actively listening and acting upon what the profession is saying is another, and I think there’s a ‘could do better’ grade for the government on that.”
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