A Hidden Epidemic
As teachers, we see it as no secret that there is currently a major issue in the way that our profession is manoeuvred and managed. We are all aware that there is a current shortage in the number of teachers working within a school environment, and although the government have had five years to notice this vicious trend they simply have not put a practical solution into play. They still do not have the ability to provide the students of Great Britain with the high-quality teaching standards that they deserve, and that we need within our school system.
Just few months ago the National Audit office confirmed that there is a major recruitment crisis taking place within Great Britain, and unfortunately this did little more than confirming the fears that the majority of us will have already had. It also confirmed those fears to the parents of the students that we teach on a daily basis, giving them an uneasy feeling with regards to the current education system. One of the key statistics that we need to look at is the fact that almost 8 out of every 10 vacant posts that are advertised within Britain are considered to be ‘difficult to recruit for’.
Why is there a national shortage of teachers?
Unfortunately, there is no single reason as to why there is a shortage of teachers within Britain. Instead there are several reasons that when put together simply turn people away from the industry, as there are more beneficial alternatives. The reality is that the number of teachers within the education system is actually larger than it ever has been, but the number of teachers is not growing at the same rate as the number of pupils is. It is estimated that within the next five years around a million new students will be introduced to British schools, and the population grows with every generation, so that is a problem that will only get worse if it is not tackled head on by the government.
The number of students already within the education system mean that teachers have to work excessively long hours within the classroom, while keeping up with a number of curriculum changes and planning lessons outside of the classroom. Secondary schools are considered to be a business by the British government, and they have targets to meet whilst still keeping budgets. There is no extra funding, and the government simply does not offer the profession of teaching a monetary value that it deserves. It simply is not sustainable.
A growing trend within the education system is that the excessive workloads that teachers have to face is actually causing a number of teachers to quit the profession entirely, with the majority becoming highly paid private tutors. The government should be taking note of this growing trend, as it is screaming about the need for more money to be invested into the teaching profession. Teachers deserve high salaries for the amount of work that they have to do, and yet frequently we see vacancies advertised at £20,000 a year.
Another burden that the modern world is placing on a number of teachers, is that a lot of teachers are expected to teach outside of their subject specialism due to the shortage. This can mean that a geography teacher ends up teaching a few history lessons every week, and it simply should not be happening. Would you appreciate to hear that your own child was been taught mathematics by an English teacher within a secondary school? The teacher could do a fantastic job, but the teacher is not a mathematics specialist.
How can the problem be fixed?
The government are currently attempting to fix the national shortage of teachers by investing £300,000 into a recruitment drive across Europe. The hope that the government have is that this recruitment drive will bring in a number of mathematics and physics teachers. This simply does not make sense. Rather than tackling the problem head on the government are attempting to swerve around it.
In reality, what needs to happen is that the educational system needs to be completely turned around. Teachers need to be offered wages that reflect the amount of work that they actually have to do, as right now the wages simply are not acceptable. Yet, people still wonder why a number of teaching roles are considered to be hard to recruit for. Quick-fixes have never been an effective solution, and history has effectively taught us that. We should be investing in the current teachers that we have, as that allows us to also invest in the futures of our young people.
The government should consider dropping university fees for subjects that lead to a career in teaching, as the university fees alone are enough to turn a number of potential teachers away. We frequently hear about a number of people who want to be teachers doing online courses instead, and going into a career teaching English in another country. Some people do that because they genuinely want to experience life in that country, while others do it because of the standard of university fees.
All in all, teachers deserve a higher wage than they currently receive. They also deserve the respect that their profession should command, as they are responsible for the future educations of Britain’s young people. Britain was once considered to be a country with one of the best educational systems in the world, but when we cannot even provide the system with high-quality British teachers there is clearly a problem.