SCHOOLS NorthEast submits response on QTS consultation

The Department of Education’s consultation on reforming QTS, entitled “Strengthening qualified teacher status and career progression”, has closed today. SCHOOLS NorthEast submitted a response to the consultation following consultation with our governing bodies.

The first half of the consultation sets out the initial proposals for a strengthened Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). These include: An extended induction period with QTS awarded at the end, Development of a structured early career content framework setting out what all teachers need to know and areas for development and a stronger mentoring provision for new teachers.

The second half of the consultation sets out the Government’s thinking on how to support career development for teachers once they have gained QTS. These include: expansion of professional qualifications to include specialisms to promote specialist career pathways, a range of options to help embed a culture of continuing professional development, building on work already underway and a pilot fund for work-related sabbaticals.

SCHOOLS NorthEast’s view

These reforms, if properly resourced, would help to support the development of new teachers once they have completed Initial Teacher Training (ITT).  However, in our view there is a lack of overall strategy in the system. QTS is being taken as an individual component part rather than a clear element of a wider vision for the school system.

The DfE has a recruitment and retention crisis. It needs to make the role of teaching more attractive to those considering it as a career. The restructuring of QTS certainly has a role to play, namely in establishing credibility (i.e. securing QTS once you have the requisite level of experience/expertise rather than a calendar award). In career terms, it should be a part of a longer pathway to developing and refining your craft and/or leadership progression.

However, taken on their own these reforms will not solve the problem of lacklustre recruitment and poor retention rates. We have to look at this in the wider context. We strongly agree with the Public Accounts Committee report “Retaining and developing the teaching workforce” that a clear plan is needed to develop and retain the profession’s workforce. We also note that the DfE has missed recruitment targets for the fifth year in a row and that UCAS statistics show a 24% drop in applications to ITT from February 2017 to February 2018. QTS reforms should form part of a broader strategy to tackle the root causes of the problem, which include work/life balance and funding.

The Government needs to ensure schools are able to support teachers through QTS. To this end, we would also like to see recognition of the aggregate impact of recent policies which have added many new roles and responsibilities without additional ongoing funding. There is, justifiably, a sense among school leaders that we are reaching a certain limit on the new responsibilities schools can realistically take on. If this is not addressed schools will struggle to provide enough time for the increased induction period and the associated mentoring and sabbatical requirements. We could easily find ourselves in a perverse situation where the workload of current teachers is simply increased in order to give their new colleagues and their mentors more time to work through the extended induction period. This would increase stress, lower morale and ultimately work against the Government’s objectives on recruitment and retention.

The context of real terms cuts to school funding must also be taken into account. Many schools have already cut back on the size of their Senior Leadership Teams (SLTs), increasing the workload of remaining school leaders as inadequate budgets and recruitment difficulties increase their contact time. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has documented declines in school spending on CPD, most recently in their survey “Breaking Point”, which showed 55% of large schools and 70% of large schools had reduced CPD in 2016/17. School budgets may be unable to support the new CPD and mentoring requirements in the absence of increased investment.

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