The newly formed education select committee surprisingly chose to spend only the last five minutes of this weeks questioning of the Secretary of State for Education on teacher recruitment. Maintaining the jovial atmosphere the secretary of state fudged the issues of teacher recruitment and talked about cobbling together a workforce as opposed to the previous ambitions of creating a world class profession. Equally there was no clear message given about the future direction of NCTL (if it remains) or who will lead NCTL at a time when it desperately needs clear, informed, intelligent and dynamic leadership.
Perhaps therefore someone on the committee might have asked how after five years we have a recruitment crisis, a fragmented system, a lack of direction and what now appears to be a lack of ambition? Unchallenged, the Secretary of State neatly sidestepped the issues by suggesting we have ‘some challenges’ – but this really does not do justice to the genuine challenges that many schools now face in shortage subjects.
Nicky Morgan also talked about there being a plan (which the select committee have asked to see) and I suspect civil servants will now be working night and day to try and pull something coherent together and I look forward to reading it!
Acknowledging these are early days for the new select committee hopefully as time goes on they will get to grips with their new brief. Therefore, some questions they might ask the next time they get an opportunity might include:
Firstly, the root cause of the difficulties in recruitment is not simply down to an improving economy. The biggest lever for recruitment is through the positive messages aspirant teachers get from existing teachers – which currently is desperately lacking. Therefore how can the morale of the profession be improved?
Secondly, the marketising of teacher supply through a school led system risks marginalising the very schools many of the most vulnerable children attend. Consequently, how can we ensure there is equity in the distribution of high quality teachers to all schools and particularly those in challenging circumstances?
Finally, when you become preoccupied with teacher supply you are in danger of being distracted from the bigger issue of teacher quality and there is now a real threat that we will simply become satisfied with getting the requisite number of teachers in place. So, how can we refocus the sector away from the significant distractions the previous coalition created and get back to focusing on creating a world class profession?