The government appears to be in denial about the extent of the teacher recruitment crisis in the UK. And make no mistake, it is a crisis. Regardless of what political spin is put on it, the crisis exists and the DfE has repeatedly failed to deal with it.
Of course, it is pretty difficult to deal with a problem that you don’t even accept is real.
But it is real. Very real.
The figures don’t lie
Official figures for teacher training applications make for uncomfortable reading. If you are a teacher working in a school, a parent with children of school age, or – most importantly – a pupil at school, the figures will give significant cause for concern.
Figures released earlier this year by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that 1,900 fewer applicants enrolled on post-graduate teacher training programmes in England and Wales last year. In 2015, the figure stood at 27, 850. This had fallen to 25, 950 by 2016. The fall represents a drop of 6.9%.
DfE has increased campaign budgets but not delivered results
The fall in new recruits to the profession is shocking enough on its own. However, when you consider that the decrease comes at a time of significant increases in the recruiting campaign budgets of the DfE, the figures are all the more disturbing.
The DfE launched its ‘Your Future: Their Future’ campaign in September 2014. The campaign had a relatively modest budget of £4m for its first year. In 2015 the DfE’s investment in recruitment marketing had been increased to £7.7m. For the 2016/17 recruitment cycle, the budget had been increased further still – up to £13.9m (more than 3 times the budget for 2014).
But while the budget for teacher recruitment rises sharply, one thing remains constant – the failure to attract the number of new recruits to the profession.
Recently it was announced that the DfE is to spend £16.6m on its annual marketing drive over the next year.
Sadly, the results are likely to be the same.
How is the DfE changing its approach?
As well as throwing serious money at the problem, the DfE is changing its approach to its marketing efforts. It has retained various agencies to work on its behalf, such as SKV Communications, and the ‘Get into Teaching’ PR campaign is set to take a case-study approach by highlighting the personal experiences of teachers in the profession. The aim is to tell the story of a teacher through the eyes of teachers themselves – very much from the perspective of an individual teacher.
This will be combined with a multi-strand campaign of marketing and communication. It will encompass print and broadcast media, cinema and digital advertising, and a concerted social media focus.
The problem is…
The problem is that no matter how compelling and convincing individual case studies might be, they will not mask the realities of what life is like for teachers in the current climate.
Teaching is a wonderful profession. The rewards and genuine job satisfaction that it can give are still massive. It is very much a calling and a vocation rather than ‘just a job’ for many.
Those people will still be drawn to the profession. However, the unconverted and the waverers are unlikely to be convinced by any marketing campaign.
The impact of excessive workloads, salaries that continue to lag behind other graduate professions, and the effect of funding cuts will continue to deter many would-be recruits.
Only when the government effectively deals with those key issues will the teacher recruitment crisis subside.