Class action: How to increase the number of top-quality teachers


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The Independent Online

Schools can only be as good as the people who work in them, the education standards watchdog Ofsted has declared.

That is patently true – as is the fact that poorly performing schools are struggling because the standard of teaching and leadership is not good enough.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, put his finger on the problem when he said that the good or outstanding schools were able to “cherry-pick” the best-quality teachers, and at a time when pupil numbers are rising and the supply of teachers is dwindling, this puts us in danger of having an increasingly “polarised” education system.

Ofsted, however, left a little to be desired in suggesting a solution. Sir Michael said we must “sell” the teaching profession more – pointing out both the financial and emotional rewards of the job. Headteachers in particular have never been better paid, while there is an unmatched satisfaction in watching a child suddenly grasp a concept they had been struggling with before you gave them the key to understanding it.

Schools also need to offer greater incentives to persuade top-quality teachers to take up posts in the most disadvantaged schools. What is on offer at present is not having the desired effect. These schools also need more cash to hire more staff so that class sizes can be reduced and pupils receive more one-to-one tuition to help them keep up.

Our leaders should also spend less time denigrating the teaching profession. Thankfully, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is mending fences after the profession’s falling out with her predecessor, Michael Gove. She has offered the tea and sympathy but actions must come next. She commendably asked the teaching profession to let her know how its workload could be improved. She has had 43,000 responses to this request. What we need to know now is her response to those suggestions.