2021 Autumn Term 1

The know zone

  • Good business sense
    School business leaders are a vital part of education leadership but, sadly, many SLTs still do not include a business or finance lead. Here, ASCL Specialist Louise Hatswell shines a spotlight on their work. More
  • Academy Trust Handbook 2021
    ASCL Business Leadership Specialist and representative on the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) Academies Finance and Assurance Steering Group Hayley Dunn highlights the key changes from the recent update to the renamed Academy Trust Handbook. More
  • Vocational reform
    Highly significant changes to vocational qualifications are underway. Here, ASCL Specialist Kevin Gilmartin looks at the implications for students, schools and colleges. More
  • Don't believe the hype
    ASCL Pensions Specialist Jacques Szemalikowski shares tips and advice to help members avoid becoming victims of unscrupulous pension scammers. More
  • Wise words of wisdom
    Here, ASCL members share their advice for new leaders starting this September. More
  • Critical thinking
    Headteacher Hannah Millett says being on ASCL Council has helped her build a wider network of leaders to support her in her job. Here, she shares her passion for Council, leadership, football and not being afraid of criticism. More
  • Baby boom and bust
    Despite a short-term recruitment rush encouraged by the pandemic, we are still desperately short of secondary teachers. Carl Smith suggests some drastic remedies for the problem. More
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Despite a short-term recruitment rush encouraged by the pandemic, we are still desperately short of secondary teachers. Carl Smith suggests some drastic remedies for the problem.

Baby boom and bust

The BBC’s Call the Midwife has reached the Swinging Sixties, a time when the ladies were called out rather a lot, principally because of the post-war baby boom. This 20-year explosion of post-conflict coitus also led to the emergence of ‘the teenager’, not least because there were a lot of them about – in the mid-1960s, nearly half the population was under the age of 25.

However, by the mid-1990s that had fallen to a third and the midwife wasn’t being called out quite so often. A baby boom is good news for teachers, of course, albeit a few years down the track. The aptly named post-millennium baby bulge is now currently working its way through Key Stage 3, meaning we need more secondary teachers, even after the recent surge in recruitment prompted by the pandemic.

A recovery plan without teachers is like an episode of Call the Midwife without midwives; the kids keep on coming, but there is no one there to greet them.

In manufacturing, of course, you could get round the problem by investing in new technology but one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic is that there is nothing like face-to-face teaching. It’s the same with midwifery: having your child delivered by a robot just wouldn’t be the same. So how do we get them (teachers, that is, not robot nurses)?

Funky adverts?

One answer is to wait for a major economic downturn; teaching always recruits well in a recession. The problem is that unemployment has remained annoyingly low, so the short-term boom in teacher recruitment caused by the pandemic is unlikely to last, though it might get us to the next election. We could always roll out some funky adverts, the kind where all the kids laugh and the sun always shines. Even if that got them through the door, however, there’s the tricky problem of how to keep them there (the teachers that is, not the kids).

Perhaps it would help if the oldies stayed on a bit longer? Teaching has become a young person’s game in recent years, to the extent where the UK has the youngest teachers in the Western world.

Unfortunately, the new recruits hardly hang around long enough to see an entire year group through KS3, so surely a few more white beards might be the answer. However, these young-at-heart types will still want paying, and some have the impudence to suppose their experience is valuable.

How about blaming school leaders instead? After all, they’ve created all these myths about Ofsted and driven their staff too hard. If only they’d back off and chill out a bit, potential teachers would be queuing around the block.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t queuing around the block to become school leaders, since there is this ludicrous notion that the job is bordering on nigh-on impossible.

For the time being, it seems we’ll just have to put up with the ones we’ve got. How about people having fewer babies? In that case, we wouldn’t need as many teachers in the first place.

The pandemic has helped here; apparently people aren’t so keen on starting a family when they have to wear a face mask to buy a bottle of milk but, thankfully, the pandemic won’t last forever, so that won’t work, either.

Bottles of milk

Anyway, someone’s got to pay for the pensions of all those older staff who were delivered by Call the Midwife nurses in the 1960s, brought up, incidentally, on bottles of milk they didn’t have to buy themselves because the government did it for them.

So, unless we manufacture a massive recession, come up with some really funky adverts or introduce compulsory contraception, we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a tight spot, not unlike one of those breech births they cover every other episode on TV. Assuming forceps aren’t the answer, all I can suggest is that we pay our teachers a bit more and work them a bit less. Then I have a funny feeling the recovery plan would work rather well.

Carl Smith is Principal of Casterton College, Rutland.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.