Teacher Recruitment in ‘Desperate’ State Says National Schools Commissioner

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 8 min read

For quite a long time now, if you were to ask people in the education industry to list the biggest issues facing the profession, most of them would be including teacher recruitment high among their responses. However, the Department for Education stands out as one organisation that doesn’t seem to agree with the consensus.

‘Desperate state’

The DfE has repeatedly rebuffed claims that teacher recruitment is in crisis, on many occasions citing that there are more teachers in employment now than ever before. Well with population growth, you would expect nothing less. But last month, David Carter, the National Schools Commissioner, seemed to break ranks somewhat.

Speaking at Whole Education’s annual conference in London, David Carter, responding to a question on the issue said:

“You are dead right. There is a recruitment challenge. It’s not the same everywhere. In some places, it’s desperate, in some places it’s just hard, but it’s not easy anywhere.”

For many it can be seen as a success that someone in such a position recognised and discussed the problem openly. David Carter went on to discuss his vision for tackling the problem, which included a ten-year plan. The Schools Commissioner believes the problem has its roots when teachers are a few years into the job and become disillusioned with the progress their careers are making. He said:

“I look at the data that tells me by year three, or secondary year four, that’s where the spike is, that feels to me the point where people are beginning to question ‘Where’s this going? Am I going to do the same year 25 times, or is each year presenting a new challenge and an opportunity to develop?”

Finding a solution

As such, the Commissioner talked about a ten-year plan that would see teachers in a senior leadership position by the age of thirty. You can read more details of that plan here.

It’s a step in the right direction that the Schools Commissioner is talking about the issue and good that he has opened a discussion about possible solutions. And while some might also see the value in his solution – especially those young teachers who feel, perhaps, that some form of career progression is what’s missing – others might feel that his solution misses the mark in other respects.

Issues of pay, issues of overwork, and issues of endless bureaucracy, assessments and requirements, are what many teachers consistently cite as the problems which wear them down. A lot of teachers want to focus on being good teachers – but feel they can’t because of arbitrary targets that must be met or excessive marking that has little effect.

Many are also not overly concerned about climbing a career ladder. They teach because they love to be in the classroom helping young people. Carter’s solution assumes all teachers one day want to be out of the classroom and in the head teacher’s office – and that’s simply not the case.

The DfE later stressed Carter’s ten-year idea was not official policy. But whatever you think of the idea – we should all welcome a government official recognising the teacher recruitment issue and contributing to the discussion of how to solve it.