July 2012

The know zone

  • Water-tight contracts
    Along with greater freedom and independence, schools also now have the huge responsibility of procuring the services of reliable contractors. Schools and colleges need to have their wits about them as Richard Bird explains More
  • Rate of return
    How do you convert time into money? Sam Ellis explains the many complexities of this question and looks at how schools can get value for money when deploying their staff. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Michael Jordan, Michaelangelo, Audrey Hepburn, Carl Sagan and Thomas Fuller More
  • Fame academy
    Vic Goddard is principal of Passmores Academy in Harlow, which is the school featured in Channel 4’s BAFTA-nominated documentary series, Educating Essex. More
  • Summing up
    Aviva’s Paying for It scheme gets students thinking about finances – their own and the nation’s. More
  • Adding value
    ASCL members can save money More
  • Fishing for staff?
    What is the most effective way to recruit and retain the best graduates as teachers? The parliamentary Education Select Committee has put forward its own ideas, ranging from higher pay and performance bonuses to sabbatical scholarships and a Royal College of Teaching. Here, leaders share their own views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Exams: Double the trouble? and Are exclusions a 'fine' thing More
  • A slippery slope?
    Struggling schools need the best heads to turn them around. But the fear of being sacked if they do not succeed quickly is deterring outstanding leaders from taking on these tough roles and undermining attempts to tackle social mobility, says Brian Lightman. More
  • Skirting the issue
    Long-serving heads will have particular targets in mind as retirement approaches. Going before you’re pushed is clearly crucial. After that, it’s all about the legacy you will leave, says Dennis Richards. More
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What is the most effective way to recruit and retain the best graduates as teachers? The parliamentary Education Select Committee has put forward its own ideas, ranging from higher pay and performance bonuses to sabbatical scholarships and a Royal College of Teaching. Here, leaders share their own views.

Fishing for staff?

Emphasise the intellect

The best graduates and the best teachers need to know that they are engaged in a proper intellectual and moral pursuit for the public good.  Serious attention to powerful, content-based knowledge is a key to this.  Young people need to know that their teachers are clever people, public intellectuals who take learning seriously.

Detail is important. Sloppy, ungrammatical language and facile slogans help no one; blind belief in jargon and fads demotivate level-headed and analytical thinkers.

Recruit the best-qualified, effective people you can get and let them focus on the building blocks of learning in their subjects.  Don’t cut corners, don’t dumb down and never denigrate intellectual pursuit by telling children that academics should get out more.

Let the subjects live and the best graduates will be happy!  

Carolyn Roberts, Head, Durham Johnston School, Durham

End morale-bashing

I work in a fantastic school where the morale is excellent and staff and students are extremely positive. I thoroughly enjoy what I do despite the many, negative external factors and find the job incredibly rewarding. However, having spoken to a number of colleagues recently, morale is certainly very low within the profession.

The single biggest factor is the very negative view of teaching and teachers that appears to be emanating from Ofsted and the Department for Education. As the DfE embarks on huge changes to every aspect of the education system it appears to be hell-bent on denigrating what we currently have.  There is now a punitive Ofsted regime that not only raises the bar, but removes the crash mat; a government that uses the PISA results selectively to run down our education system; and an education system that is becoming increasingly fragmented.

Mark Jackson, Head, Haslingden High School, Rossendale, Lancashire

Promote a positive view

Instead of spending millions on some of the parliamentary suggestions for attracting the best graduates into teaching, a good place to start would be with the DfE, the secretary of state and the media. Let us try to disseminate a truthful and  positive view of teachers, their professionalism, their dedication and the rewards of working with young people. It is not rocket science why graduates find the profession unattractive: just open the newspaper or listen to the news.

Intelligent people are interested in quality of life and in spending their time doing something that is appreciated and valued. Good teachers  have a vocation and a passion for their subject and young people. It has  never been a profession you entered to make your fortune. Being society’s scapegoat is not an attractive proposition.

Fiona Hewardine, Head, Maryhill High School, Staffordshire

Retention is key

On paper teaching is an attractive job and the real issue is retention. Conditions of work and support are crucial.

I was head of a training school and am now retired. We used to set a lot of store by recruitment, with good success but, equally, we were really good at retention. This was done by excellent support systems, not only for new teachers but for all staff as they progressed through their career.

In my time, we promised no financial inducement and would never advocate that. We promised a great start to a career.

I also would not advocate higher pay at the onset or bonuses. Teaching is a team game and there are rewards for performance and additional responsibility enough. CPD entitlements and sabbaticals could be very useful.

The biggest problem to overcome in retention is overbearing bureaucracy, dogmatic governmental interference and over-the-top Ofsted. A lot of younger entrants want a life as well as a career.

Gary Coleby, former head of Crown Hills Community College, Leicester

Autonomy not gimmicks

Most internationally-recognised research  (Andy Hargreaves,  Michael Fullan) continues to show that greater autonomy and being trusted as a professional are far more important than external gimmicks. Teaching is far more than the “craft” or technical exercise imaged by the coalition.

To sustain the motivation of highly-qualified, empathetic teachers government should seek to replicate the human dimension of high performing Finland. Its unit of aggregation lies not at individual school level but at system level.

Successive governments are de-professionalising and demotivating teachers through consumerism, short-termism and a blind confidence in the place of the market.  This creates the very inequality in society that speeds up the downward spiral. The disgraceful correlation between attainment and inequality in this country is systemic.  

Ministers are too quick to point the blame at the most gifted generation of teachers and heads (see OECD PISA study on leadership) that we have ever seen. Most teachers and heads  are passionate about the role of state education and believe that education is a force for good.  We believe in democratic, value-driven education where genuine dialogue and feedback replace the obsession with targets, performance management and Ofsted grades crudely linked to raw data.

We believe students and teachers thrive in an ethos of democratic fellowship and that this Utopian world is as far removed from the utilitarian world of ministers as it is possible to be.

Steve Baker, Head, Lipson Co-operative Academy Trust, Plymouth

Sense of fulfilment

Over the last few years we have noticed a significant improvement in the quality and number of good candidates for our teaching vacancies.  Undoubtedly this can be partly explained by recent economic conditions but I also think that the previous TDA advertising campaigns focused on the right things to encourage the best potential teachers into schools. 

Their main message was the huge sense of fulfilment that comes from teaching and enabling young people, especially those that are disadvantaged, to reach their potential.  This is the overriding motivator of all of the best teachers that I know and it is why we want these people in the classroom.  We need to get back to this core message and limit the negative impact that low morale in the profession will have on attracting and retaining the best.

Mark Marande, Deputy Head, Priory School, Portsmouth

Status matters

Attracting the best graduates into teaching requires the profession to present a package that is equally attractive as, say, working in law, medicine or the City. This means respect for the status of the career as well as appropriate remuneration, CPD, promotion and so forth.

The pay scales and the opportunities to progress through the pay scales are fit for purpose. However, saying “I'm a teacher” simply does not command the respect given to those graduates who are able to say “I'm a lawyer” or “I’m a City analyst”.

We have to look very carefully at the messages that are given out by all stakeholders about the importance of the perceived status of the role.

High quality CPD is essential to retaining high quality graduates in the profession. Although student teachers often visit, observe and spend time in a variety of schools there is little opportunity for this once a position is secured. The opportunity to teach in a variety of schools for a fixed period of time once in post would enable teachers to gain vast experience of different approaches to leading the system, leading learning and all aspects of the learning of young people.

Nicki Flynn, Assistant Head, Parkside School, Bradford

I love my job

Although some (government, Ofsted etc) try to make it more and more difficult for us to enjoy it, I still love my job! I have a deep rooted belief in education and its power to change lives for the better. I always wanted to become a teacher. At the time I lived in France and I wanted to be an English teacher in France. As it turned out, I became a French teacher in England.  I didn’t consider the pay, the prospects, nor the pension, I just wanted to make a difference.

To this day, this is what motivates me.  I remember the first time a student said “Miss, I’ve got it!” It was, and still is, one of the best feelings. I soon realised that I wanted to have a wider impact on students’ future, and as a leader I work with colleagues to achieve this across the school.

Angelina Robin-Jones, Deputy Head, Cleeve School