The new government White Paper: implications for teachers, pupils and the sector
“The quality of teaching is the single most important in-school factor in improving outcomes for children.” (Opportunity for all - Strong schools with great teachers for your child, 28th March 2022)
Frankly, this isn’t new news but it does serve as a reminder of just how important a teacher is in shaping children’s future educational outcomes. At Supply&Teach – a teacher-run recruitment agency – we know that this also means our supply teachers and teaching assistants must be of the same high-quality as the school staff they are covering. Quality of education shouldn’t dip simply because the class teacher or TA are off ill or on a course. That is why we endeavour to recruit the best supply teachers we can and it is why we tell them how much we value them.
Whilst the government’s white paper: Opportunity for all might not be ground-breaking in its statements and proposals (after all, when were we not trying to improve the number of children achieving in reading, writing and maths or fulfil their potential?), Chapter 1 ‘An excellent teacher for every child’ did fill me with hope about the teaching profession. And I don’t use the word ‘profession’ lightly. It has seemed that on occasion the concept of teaching as a profession has been eroded by various educational fads and trends and whilst I welcome resources such as the Oak Academy curriculum maps etc, I do hope they can be used with professional judgement rather than to roboticise school staff. The commitment to reforming training for all teachers -not just leaders- will I think be greeted warmly but we need to embrace those opportunities ourselves not just rely on schools to present them to us. Did you know for instance that you don’t need to currently be employed by a school to be eligible for the current or new National Professional Qualifications? Great news if you’re a supply teacher who is seeking to broaden and develop their skills in order to be the high-quality teacher the Secretary of State for Education mentions. Visit the DfE’s webpage to register to study an NPQ: https://register-national-professional-qualifications.education.gov.uk/ or check out the Teach First website: https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/npqs
In truth, the reality is there are many aspects that make a school successful in ensuring their pupils achieve the very best that they are capable of. If I were to use a football analogy, a squad of the most talented players can run onto the pitch but unless they’ve been coached well as a team, unless they feel inspired by their leadership, unless they’ve had the right levels of nutrition etc, only then will they be consistently successful. This is reflected in schools and how we then respond as a recruitment agency, which is why our Refer a Friend scheme has been designed to reward the teacher or TA for taking the time to mention us to someone else they know but not only that, we donate to FareShare and to Teach First – two charities that are part of that holistic approach to ensuring children can fulfil their potential by ensuring that they don’t go hungry and that their teachers are trained well.
Another aspect of the Schools White Paper was the targeted approach of using tutoring as a key part of the toolkit to help pupils who are behind and especially, pupil premium children. At this stage, it’s not hugely clear how these apparent 6 million tutor slots will be organised across the 8.9 million pupils in the 22,000 schools in England. I’m also a little reticent about applauding the DfE for this move; as of December last year catch- up tuition was 92% adrift of its year-end target, its’ Catch-Up tzar had quit over lack of buy-in to a £15bn budget he’d suggested England’s schools had needed for this purpose and the £5 billion investment put forward yesterday equates to the same funding as schools had in 2010. Watching breakfast news yesterday, Nadhim Zahawi did himself no favours in interviews, appearing to admit that money he should have tried to secure for education went to offset the financial crisis. That all said and without going into politics too much (let’s be honest, we can criticise whoever is in charge for policy choices), they are at least putting forward other avenues for schools to explore for catch-up caused not just by Covid but by all the other factors that mean some children fall behind their peers. So, who are these tutors the DfE speak of? That’s where Supply&Teach come in. We are recruiting for teachers – trainee, newly-qualified, current or retired - to match with schools that are need of their expertise so they can offer tutoring mornings or afternoons. If you think this might be something you’d be great at or know someone who would then get in touch at www.supplyandteach.org
Meanwhile, I will wait with bated breath to see what this White Paper will actually deliver but hope that our teaching profession and the children we educate will benefit.