Anyone who’s been in the education sector for a while will nod along appreciatively with DfE’s new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. The DfE seems to be finally on board with what education research and education practitioners have been saying for a long while: Competent and supported teachers and headteachers are what make education excellent for all students.
From a research evidence perspective, it’s no surprise that Ofsted’s inspection framework has created stress and extra admin work for already exhausted teachers. As the report notes, student behavior is a top taxing factor in the teaching profession before even considering rigorous data tracking and explaining oneself and one’s self- generated curriculum. The welfare and job satisfaction of teachers should most certainly be a priority but the effects of over assessment and undervaluation of teachers have been clear in education research and the DfE has for some time failed to act.
In 2012, an academic investigation found that teachers were changing professions in the UK owing to a dislike of increased Ofsted pressure. In the U.S. the increased use of standardised testing in schools under No Child Left Behind legislation lead to teachers leaving the profession, some desperate teachers changing student answers, and ultimately abandonment of the policy. On the other hand, it is widely acknowledged that the success of education systems in places like Finland or Singapore, countries often held up as exemplary education systems, is due in large part to teaching being a professional experience with autonomy and extensive professional development.
The UK is facing increasing rates of new secondary students and a number of policy overhauls that system is still in the process of adjusting to. Headteachers, Trust CEOs, and school staff are adapting to the new changes but it has been a strain, as the report has acknowledged to some degree. The DfE has pledged more support for this round of changes. The question remains how much do these reforms depend on the DfE and how much can individual schools implement without them?
The introduction of the Early Career Framework, the new professional qualifications, additional bursaries, encouragement of flexible hours, and a more streamlined Initial Teacher Training application seem welcome in theory but only if, as the report states, it avoids certain pitfalls. The education sector experts consulted on the policy change maintain:
- “Additional funding is needed to support the roll-out of the ECF reforms – this opportunity will be entirely lost if it is not adequately resourced or it becomes an additional burden on schools.
- The early career framework reforms must be firmly and exclusively about an entitlement to additional support and training – it must not be, or appear to be, an additional burden or an assessment of early career teachers.”
Today TES reports that Trusts are running out of “easy savings” and are thus facing deficits. With this new reform, the DfE anticipates investing 130 million extra pounds at the national level every year for the implementation of ECF, and restates its current commitment to £350 million in funds and capital for SEND and mental health. Will it be enough funding and support to offset deficits and allow MATs to deliver the high quality education expected of them?
As usual the reforms are well intentioned but capable of causing more problems than they solve if not handled correctly. The implementation of these reforms cannot be left entirely up to MATs, headteachers, and schools alone. The DfE must follow through on the support and funding offered.
 MacBeath, J. (2012). Teacher training, education or learning by doing in the UK. In L. Darling-Hammond, & A. Lieberman (Eds.), Teacher education around the world: Changing policies and practices (pp. 81-97). London: Routledge.
 Darling-Hammond, L. (Ed.), LIEBERMAN, A. (Ed.). (2012). Teacher Education Around the World. London: Routledge, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203817551