“Teachers are stressed, exhausted, burnt-out and have no job security”
The education sector has become harsher place for trainees, writes Dr Jonathan Glazzard – which is why university-based initial teacher has continued to evolve…
Teacher training has faced turbulent changes during the past six years.
The introduction of School Direct has been embraced by universities, but not without many considerable challenges. The introduction of multiple routes into teaching has become confusing for potential entrants who want to train, but are often confused as to which route is best for them. The pressure on providers to source placements has intensified with the increasing range of training provision that is now available.
The cuts to provider-led allocations have been harsh and unjustified. Ofsted inspection frameworks have become increasingly rigorous over the past few years, and with the increasing range of provision within a single provider, inspectors are now interested on discrepancies in trainee outcomes between the various routes. Adding more routes provides greater choice for trainees, but it makes it difficult for providers to ensure that there is consistency in quality and parity in outcomes for trainees across these different routes.
In addition, the National College for Teaching and Leadership has communicated several initial teacher training priorities over the last few years. Included in this ever-growing list are phonics, behaviour management, special educational needs, English as an additional language and mathematics.
Prioritisation and innovation
These have always been key elements of teacher training courses, but we have responded by making them more visible to our trainees, such as introducing partnership conferences that focus in particular on these priorities. The challenge is that on a teacher training course we don’t have have an infinite amount of time – so at the same that we’ve prioritised these aspects, we have had to reduce the time allocated to other important areas.
What is clear is that university-based teacher training has survived, despite the initial fears that it would cease to exist. Some trainees still choose, through preference, to train through the traditional university route because they value the university experience. As a sector, we have proved that we are resilient and can respond to the challenges thrown our way.
Increasingly rigorous initial teacher education inspection frameworks have forced us to focus even more sharply on the quality of the partnerships that we establish with schools, with the result that innovative models of partnership working are now becoming increasingly established and embedded across the sector. At Leeds Trinity University, for example, we maintain excellent relationships with 450 Primary and 60 Secondary Schools in the local area.
We have also been able to respond immediately to the many changes that have been implemented in schools, such as the introduction of a more challenging national curriculum; new assessment arrangements, the new code of Practice for Special Educational Needs, the growth of academisation and many more.
Teaching is in crisis
Many talented teachers are leaving the profession due to these continual challenges.
The monitoring of teachers has intensified over the past decade and now reached unacceptable levels. Teachers are stressed, exhausted, burnt-out and have no job security. They are only as good as their last observation or last set of results. Experience seems to count for nothing. Schools in areas of social deprivation are struggling to recruit.
As a sector, we have a duty to prepare our trainees for working in this harsh climate – and to do this, we need to be explicit about the demands of teaching today and help them to build up their resilience. We also need to recruit the best trainees.
One might ask how the sector can be so resilient when the cards are stacked against it. It is because I and many of my colleagues in initial teacher education want to continue contributing to the development of a better society.
There is nothing more rewarding than training the next generation of teachers who will go out into the world and change the lives of the children they teach. It is a privilege to train teachers, and we are prepared to face the challenges head on in our pursuits to make a difference to future teachers and the children they teach.
Dr Jonathan Glazzard is a former primary school teacher and head of academic development at the Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University.
His book Learning to be a Primary Teacher: Core Knowledge and Understanding is available now from Critical Publishing; for more information, follow @j_glazzard