Yorkshire head warns teacher shortages could see school system implode

A LEADING HEADTEACHER has warned that the school system is in danger of imploding because of a lack of good teachers.

John Tomsett, the head of Huntington School, in York, said that action was needed to make the profession more attractive and to get good teaching staff back into classrooms.

He said that teaching was in the middle of a retention and recruitment crisis and suggested that school leaders were “on their own” as the Government had given up worrying about it.

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Mr Tomsett is one of the co-founders of the Heads’ Roundtable, a group of prominent headteachers who came together through social media, and now work as a think-tank.

Writing in a blog he called on school leaders to take action to help attract and retain teachers to the profession.

He warned that the move towards more school-based teacher training was taking good teachers out of the classroom to become trainers of staff.

Last month the Public Accounts Committee issued a critical report into teacher recruitment.

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It said that the Department for Education had missed its targets to fill teacher training places four years running and added it had “no plan for how to achieve them in future”.

At the time the committee chair Meg Hillier MP said that the Government “took comfort in national statistics but pays insufficient heed to the fact that teaching happens locally, in individual schools”.

Mr Tomsett told The Yorkshire Post that schools in York were fortunate because the city was a very attractive place to live. But he warned that schools elsewhere in the region faced major challenges recruiting teachers.

He said: “There can be real difficulties recruiting teachers in areas of coastal deprivation or in some inner city areas of Bradford, Hull and Leeds.” Mr Tomsett added that ensuring schools had enough quality teachers was crucial to raising standards.

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In his blog he wrote: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that only great teaching will make our country’s education system great. It’s that simple. Finding great teachers isn’t so simple, however. Despite what Nick Gibb might say, we are in the middle of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in England. And it is not just a matter of having enough teachers to stand in front of classes, it is the quality of those teachers which is an equally serious concern.”

He also warned that other Government policies were making it harder to recruit and retain staff.

“Many teachers working in our schools come from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada, but they will only be able to remain working in the UK if they earn over £35,000 thanks to Theresa May’s genius piece of legislation which became law in April 2016. The new rules state that anyone from non-EU countries working in the UK from April 2016 must earn over £35,000 or be deported.”

His blog calls on school leaders to take action to solve the crisis. He says they the level of fear in the profession must be reduced - including the removal of what he describes as “penal” performance related pay policies. He also urges schools to ensure they pay teachers as much as they can as the profession has had a “real terms pay cut of 10 per cent” since 2008. And he said more must be done to ensure teachers benefit from continuing professional development which “affects their practice and has a positive impact on pupils.”

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In his blog he said: “I have come to realise that we are the worst trained profession in the country. Think about it: when did you last receive training which changed your classroom practice and improved your students’ outcomes? In twenty-eight years of teaching I can think of no more than three moments when I have changed my teaching as a consequence of my training. The new DfE Standards for Continuous Professional Development are a good place to start planning better CPDL.”

A DfE spokesman said: “The number of teachers in our schools is at an all-time high – 15,000 more since 2010 - but we recognise there are challenges. That’s why we are investing millions of pounds to attract the best and the brightest into the profession, helping schools to advertise vacancies more easily and expanding Teach First to get more top graduates teaching in some of the most challenging parts of the country. ‎

“By supporting schools to recruit and retain the high quality teachers they need we will ensure every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential”