Expecting six applicants to interview this morning, I sat with my colleague looking through their personal UCAS Teacher Training statements. All applications were rich with poetic reasons for becoming a teacher and, dare I say, a little clichéd; “I want to create opportunities for learners”; “A teacher gives something back, and that is the person I want to be”. Nevertheless, with these affirmations read, my colleague and I were looking forward to the interviewing process and hopefully filling the places on our course knowing the difficult times we are facing with teacher recruitment and retention. With our questions ready, coffee mugs in hand, we went to meet our prospective trainee teachers.
When only one of the applicants turned up, late I might add, the depth of my disappointment was only matched by the amount of my hard-work, preparation and thought that was dismissed by the other applicants’ failure to attend. This feeling was only compounded in a Guardian article today when a Conservative spokesperson informed us that “It is simply untrue to say that there is a teacher shortage. Teaching continues to be a hugely popular career”.
Why then are we experiencing a national crisis in teacher recruitment, which has seen the total number of applicants drop nationally? Why is it that “In April 2014 there were 125,310 applications” and yet at the same time this year there are only 98,000? Why too, has “The number of individual applicants placed or holding an offer gone down, by more than 3,300, from 24,310 in April 2014 to 20,990 in April 2015?”
Why have five out of the six invited to interview not bothered to attend?
UCAS Teacher Training has demonstrated in black and white that the government are set to completely miss their recruitment target for the fourth year running. Added to this the diminishing demand for teacher training places not only raises concerns for the future of our schools and education but also exposes the lie there is not a teacher shortage pedalled by ‘a Conservative spokesperson’. Furthermore, the numbers published at a national level are mirrored at a local level, with today’s ‘interview experience’ as testament to their authenticity; a small example I must admit.
Obviously I cannot ‘know’ in an authentic sense about the state of the national recruitment picture and much of my evidence is anecdotal and from my own recruitment experience working in Higher Education but I do know that my colleagues share my concerns about recruitment in a range of subject areas. Surely we can’t all be lying, why would we?
As my wife and I begin to consider school places for my son, I am increasingly alarmed by the possibility that my son might not have a teacher. Imagine that, if you can. A school with no teachers. What’s worse is that if he does have a teacher he or she may not even be qualified. I don’t want to entrust part of his educational development to some toothless, moonlighting dinner lady; his thinking, feeling, knowing and understanding are far more important than some Tory trying to gloss over an evident problem in the hope of securing power and no doubt his or her salary for another four years.
Then again, why would a right-wing representative not really care about the social and moral responsibility of teaching the younger generation?