Collectively, we dedicate our lives to the education and wellbeing of the children and young people within our care. I know we all work incredibly hard for each and every one of our students, to help them achieve their full potential. We are highly driven in this shared aim – raising expectations and ensuring the quality of what we do has the right impact. But as a trust, we also care deeply about our colleagues, who ultimately make this possible.
Fast forward to 2018, and some argue that there is now excessive accountability across the system. Drawing on my own recent experience as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors, I witnessed (too often) either too much or too little accountability – both ends of the continuum being unsatisfactory. Moreover, the sector is adversely affected by the ‘noise’ around accountability – with resulting difficulties in attraction, recruitment and retention across the profession.
Within our state education sector, the impact of this is evident in the astronomical, and increasing, amounts spent on supply teaching staff, to cover staff shortages and absences, each year. These costs make for uncomfortable reading for us all – £821 million spent across the sector (Source: BBC Analysis/Department for Education) – inefficient, damaging and burdensome for all of us.
So, why do teachers leave the profession? Much is said of ‘workloads’, but this isn’t the only factor. Other associated issues such as: marking (and its variable impact); the number of data and assessment collection points; and the amount of restrictions and perceived accountabilities are frequently cited reasons too. Colleagues also want senior leaders to model excellent professional behaviour and to provide consistent professional support and challenge. They want the very best CPD to enhance their career and to have access to opportunities to progress within a school, academy or trust. It is of note that ‘pay’ is rarely cited as a main reason for leaving (although it is often a contributory factor).
A study of national and international data, our own trust data, case studies and vigorous debate led to a consensus about driving this priority forward during 2018/19. We will develop clear, simple and connected strategies which respond to the issues we know our colleagues deem important – addressing challenges such as the levels of administration, data gathering, work-life balance and employment flexibility.
A number of themes emerged – both specific and broad – which we’re tackling head on, such as:
- reviewing NQT and RQT training, and ensuring undergraduates are better prepared for life in teaching
- challenging perceptions around the use and benefits of marking guidelines – which are not imposed by the DfE or Ofsted
- assessing our practices around mock exam paper marking and whether the use of external markers might be more effective
- examining the impact and value of student reports for students and parents – and how tutor comments might enhance their personalisation
- assessing how technology can be a force for good, enabling better connectivity and freeing up time to focus on other priorities
- better aligning our meetings calendars, ensuring that all have purpose and impact
- driving further collaboration and the sharing of priorities in line with our collective vision
- widening our methods of communication and improving the sign-posting of wellbeing schemes to all colleagues
The early engagement of prospective colleagues is also vital. We will ‘set out our stall’ clearly and succinctly, opening up our organisation in a way that makes us the ‘trust of choice’ in our region.
Debbie Clinton, Acting CEO