Friday, March 4, 2016

Britain Is Also Hemorrhaging Teachers

Just in case you thought only the US had decided to gut teaching as a profession, thereby driving people out of it, here's Nick Morrison in Forbes pointing out that the UK has some issues as well.

In fact, the article hinges on one striking factoid--

According to the Department for Education’s own census, more teachers left the classroom than entered it in 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, only the second time this has happened in the past 10 years.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, England's chief inspector of schools, is noted for a fairly aggressive approach to his job, having recently raised the frequency for school inspection as well as raising a fuss by threatening to inspect Sunday schools as well. Wilshaw likes the idea of golden handcuffs, requiring newly-minted teachers to serve a proscribed time in publicly funded schools until they jump ship. Because nothing enhances education like a teacher who has been forced into a particular classroom when they'd rather be elsewhere.

The ship-jumping has apparently been to well-funded high-paying international schools. Wilshaw has sounded the alarm about this before, and Morrison reported that teachers, particularly in London, cannot afford to live in the communities where they teach.

In addition to the monetary issues, Morrison notes that there are other problems

Workload, a high-stakes testing regime and the low status of teaching also help push teachers out of the classroom, as does the scrutiny of Sir Michael’s own school inspectors.

Sound familiar? Sure it does, as does the government's search for any solution other than paying teachers more, dropping useless high stakes testing, and generally improving the working conditions of teachers. Wilshaw's innovative indentured servitude idea doesn't even address the whole problem, as Morrison notes that in 2014, 40% of all teacher retirements were "premature."

Nor does it seem likely that golden handcuffs would help much with recruitment. Imagine what would happen to, say, Teach for America recruitment if part of the deal was that you absolutely couldn't leave the shcool you were placed in for three-to-five years? I don't think that would up their numbers much.

Of course, the solution in all countries is the same-- make the job more attractive and rewarding, which doesn't mean just money, but respect, autonomy, and support. Can you imagine a school system where, once a month, your boss calls you in and says, "Okay, I need to know what I can be doing to help you do your best possible work."

At any rate, that's your reminder that America is not the only place with leaders working hard to drive folks out of the teaching profession-- Pearson's corporate homeland is doing their best, too. I suppose that's another way to become more internationally competitive-- convince other nations to make the same boneheaded retrograde policy decisions that we follow here.

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