The increase in underqualified teachers and high staff turnovers in UK state schools leave the next generation of young learners in unsafe hands.
Image Credit: National Public Radio
Why is it happening ?
In 2015, the UK government introduced a new secondary school accountability system. ‘Progress 8’ aims to capture the pupils’ progress from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. It compares a student’s results with the achievements of other pupils with similar prior attainment. Every increase in every grade will grant the school additional points in performance tables.
Such is the value of performance tables, that the demand for smaller class sizes and more teachers significantly grew ever since, in order to amplify results. This, coupled with the need for a cheaper workforce, causes a dangerous desperation, leading to the employment of underqualified teachers at lower salaries. As of July 2017, official government figures show that the number of underqualified teachers in the UK rose by 62% to 24,000 since the government removed the requirement for a formal qualification in 2013.
Furthermore, the competitive job market for graduates drives candidates into the teaching profession with seemingly infinite vacancies. Teaching becomes a backup plan. Even if it is a graduate’s first choice, it is commonly just a plan to ‘teach first’. Graduates exploit this easy option, but they are not committed to the profession. Millennials tend to stay for only one or two years before opting for more lucrative and easier desk jobs.
Why does it matter?
The desperation of the industry to fill vacancies fosters the false belief that teaching is something everyone can do, to the extent that anyone can get a teaching position. The belief became a reality; this year, the UK government missed its recruitment targets in the majority of subjects. As graduates enter the profession without proper skills and subject knowledge, they suffer the stresses of assessment and accountability that the control measures enforce.
A higher turnover of teachers will create a work force who find themselves out of their depth. Already almost a third of state school teachers quit within 5 years. Schools need teachers to stand at the front of every class. Thus they become desperate for graduates, irrespective of their ability or commitment, which lowers educational standards.
Unless regulations change, the next generation is likely to suffer. If this issue remains unresolved, students may fall under the guidance and supervision of teachers who are neither qualified, nor committed for the role. These children will never experience education from someone who inspires them to achieve, leaving an unmotivated generation behind.
What can you do about it?
Finding an alternative to merely changing the curriculum to solve educational problems is a must. Parents, teachers and children need to embed an understanding of the content of the exams and what is required for specific grades. Parents can now use social media to find out about their kids’ grades, attendance, and late arrival late to class. Utilizing social media, websites like Mumsnet, and engaging with fellow parents can strengthen parental leverage over education standards.
Millennials can follow and support the action of The Teachers Union (NASUWT) and the National Education Union (NEU) that stand up for teachers and students across the UK. Take the time to educate others, especially parents, on the implications of accountability government measures. As opposed to government claims that teacher strikes were damaging to education, it is the very reason behind the strikes, that government policies induced, that will be more damaging in the long term. A greater public support in favour of teacher strikes is required, and the rhetoric and stigma surrounding strike action have to be reversed.
Additionally, challenge family, friends and colleagues who promote the idea that anyone can teach, and bring their attention to this problem. Challenge those who treat teaching as a back-up plan, and those who enter the profession half-heartedly before starting their ‘real career’.
Frederick Clayton Briefs from Huaraz, Peru. He holds a Master of Studies in Ancient History from the University of Oxford.
Connect with him via LinkedIn.