At present the government’s entire focus on teacher quality is on recuiting ‘higher calibre’ graduates and in trying to improve professional development through Teaching Schools. The first is happening through specialised bursaries, the introduction of the Schools Direct programme and a reconsideration of entry requirements for PGCEs. The latter (Schools Direct) is happening in some places, but still not many.
But, is England’s issue that we can’t recruit enough high-quality graduates into teaching or is it that we can’t retain them?
Over years of promoting the top graduates recruited and placed by non-profit organisiation TeachFirst I’ve increasingly heard Heads say: “They were excellent, I’d have one again in a heartbeat, but they always leave.”
Some have argued that TeachFirst’s allegedly high turnover rate is a problem, and demonstrates the organisation isn’t working. Actually, the figures for getting from starting the programme to achieving QTS are higher than PGCEs (many fewer drop out) and the 4 year rate is roughly equal.
The bigger issue is that most people who enter teaching leave within seven years. Those who stay longer than seven years tend to stay forever. Both sides of this equation have implications, including: Who leaves in that first seven years? The lowest quality teachers? The highest?, and Why is it that most people who do seven plus years stay forever? Are they caught by a teaching bug and in love with the profession? Or do they feel stuck there? (And what does that do to the quality of their teaching?)
Many researchers have pointed out before that when looking at teacher quality it is vital to look at recruitment, development AND retention. Without organising the latter you are in the situation of continuing to fill up the bath because you forgot to put the plug in!
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Very pertinent questions here Laura – ones that aren’t asked enough. And I’m saying this as a teacher that felt completely ‘done’ at the end of the 7 years. I knew if I carried on I would have become one of those cynical burnt out teachers that become ‘lifers’! I’ve seen far too many of the good ones leave for a ‘career break’ and never come back.
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