According to Damian Hinds (and various friends of the DfE) there are a handful of reasons for the slight recruitment and retention hiccup currently troubling a couple of England’s schools, and Damian has a list of handy ways to solve it. There’s workload, which is caused by all the SLT in the world misinterpreting Ofsted’s demand for evidence of progress as being about doing triple marking even though no Ofsted report ever written suggested that marking should be a thing and no one should dare say that it did. There’s a distinct lack of desire to deliver the standardised lessons that would instantly solve workload, which is caused by ungrateful teachers who want to do one of the bits of the job they enjoy but who are silly enough to think it might be sensible to give them a bit more time to do it. And then there is funding. No, not that funding. The other funding where there’s plenty of funding but it is the fault of schools that they don’t have enough funding because they are spending their funding on recruiting new teachers to replace the ones who left, but who definitely didn’t leave due to anything the DfE had done. Oh and literally no one is worried about too many tests in primary, because no way is the DfE ever going to impose any more tests on young children that might cause added workload (except for the extra two tests that have already been announced but let’s not worry about those right now).
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Government, and those who support its methods, have spent the last eight years talking most of our teachers down and telling them how they’ve been doing everything wrong for all these years. Michael Gove’s main mission in life seemed to be to alienate as many teachers as he could while bringing in a curriculum that made everyone’s lives harder. Accountability is in a mess, with Ofsted back tracking from half the stuff it used to say, or claiming that it didn’t say the things in its reports that it clearly did say. A punishing regime of accountability and competition between schools has led to a tense atmosphere and some school leaders resorting to what looks like gaming to ‘win’ the prize. A series of tests punctuate our children’s primary education. Exclusion rates are up, mental health is in crisis and alternative provision is struggling to meet demand. Those who educate the next generation of teachers in universities have been told they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And teachers are working more hours, under more pressure, than I’ve seen in twenty five years. So perhaps the best answer to the question ‘what is causing this crisis?’ is for the DfE and Ofsted to stop blaming everyone else, and to take a long hard look in the mirror. Because the answer to their question will be staring them right back in the face.