Marie-Claire Bretherton, Executive Headteacher Kyra Teaching School Alliance, welcomed colleagues to the event and gave a warm welcome to Professor Sam Twiselton OBE, who worked with colleagues to explore three core themes:
1. What are the barriers to keeping new teachers in the profession? How are schools across Kyra addressing this? Are there any specific issues relating to Lincolnshire schools?
2. What are colleagues’ views on the proposals? How do they see the reforms being implemented within their own contexts? What are the opportunities and some of the potential unintended consequences?
3. What are colleagues’ views on a new suite of specialist teaching qualifications and NPQs? Are we doing enough to support, encourage and inspire those talented staff who don’t want to progress into leadership roles? What are the opportunities and challenges around flexible working?
Learning is at the very core of Kyra’s ‘DNA’ so the event was convened to enable colleagues to learn both from each other and from Professor Twiselton’s experience as Director of the Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University; and as Chair of the recent review of the core content of initial teacher training (ITT) for the Department for Education (DfE) in respect of the recently-launched Early Career Framework (ECF). Professor Twiselton is also Chair of the Doncaster Opportunity Area.
Marie-Claire highlighted this exciting opportunity for colleagues to not only learn but also commit to further action that will help to drive the agenda on this issue of supporting and retaining teachers in the early stages of their career; not only within Kyra schools but more widely across Lincolnshire and also to inform the national agenda.
The national context
Setting the scene for colleagues with regard to the national context for recruiting, supporting and retaining early career teachers was Rachael Gacs, Networks and Resources Manager at Forum Strategy.
Rachael emphasised that there is no more important resource in any school than its teachers; and that as a whole the system is facing a real problem with attracting talented teachers into the profession and keeping hold of them, not least due to increased competition with other professions in a relatively buoyant graduate employment market. Additionally, the demographic bulge of pupils now moving into secondary schools (with an anticipated 15 per cent more secondary pupils in 2025 compared to 2018) means that even more secondary school teachers will be needed over the coming years. The education sector is also very much playing catch-up compared to other sectors, in terms of what it offers the new cohort of graduates who now expect increased flexibility and greater work-life balance from their employment. Once in the profession, the statistics for retention are stark – around one in eight new teachers leave after just one year; one in five leave after two years; and nearly one in three have already left teaching after five years.
The DfE is attempting to address the system-level difficulties with attracting, supporting and retaining high quality teachers – through the publication of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy; and the workload reduction toolkit. In terms of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, the DfE have, among other things, promised to:
- Simplify the process for becoming a teacher with a new one-stop application system for ITT.
- Launch the Early Career Framework – two years of structured support, funded time off timetable, support for mentors, and staggered retention payments to encourage people to remain in the profession. Ensuring Early Career Teachers can access high quality curriculum plans and materials.
- Ensure the new Ofsted framework will have an active focus on reducing workload.
Colleagues considered some of the main drivers influencing why so many teachers leave so early on in their careers; including concerns over work-life balance and wellbeing; a lack of high quality support (including at leadership level) leading to a ‘sink or swim’ culture in schools; the impact of the excessive national accountability agenda; difficulties with embedding a flexible working culture within education; and perceived lack of opportunities for career progression. This led to further discussion on what leaders within and across Kyra could do to better enable the recruitment and retention of high calibre teachers and the support they are offered in the earliest – and most challenging – stages of their careers. In order to take greater ownership of, and invest strategically in, effective recruitment and retention strategies, schools and groups of schools must keep up-to-date with the latest research on what motivates the current generation of new graduates entering the employment market – such as purpose, flexibility and opportunities for professional development.
The local context
Marie-Claire set out the local situation regarding recruiting and retaining new teachers; highlighting that the East Midlands retains fewer teachers (78%) than any other region, apart from inner and outer London. Within Lincolnshire itself, teachers seem prepared to move between the north and south of the county, whilst movement between the east and west seems to be much more of a problem, not least because of issues with commuting times. We also know that when teachers move schools, they tend not to move to a school more than 15 miles away from their current school.
Kyra is a Primary Hub for the Lincolnshire Teaching School Alliance (LTSA) SCITT; meaning that however Kyra decides to respond to this issue of better supporting early career teachers, it must be undertaken in collaboration and with an emphasis on making Lincolnshire schools a top choice for teachers at all stages in their careers.
The recent local ‘Youthquake Show’ delivered by Zest Theatre, considered the perspectives of children and young people across Lincolnshire regarding education and wider society; and gave some stark messages about how local children feel about the area and their future prospects. Marie-Claire asked colleagues to consider how they can work together to create a culture in Lincoln and Lincolnshire where getting into teaching is seen as a desirable option for children and young people. Whilst Kyra and its work so far provides a good foundation, there is clearly more than can and needs to be done.
Colleagues discussed the local and national context and agreed that publicity around teaching tends to be very negative. The narrative needs to be turned around to emphasise that teaching and school leadership are an interesting and varied career choice, where every day is different and with the potential to have a positive and lasting influence on the lives of so many children and young people.
Barriers and challenges in retaining early career teacher
Professor Sam Twiselton led a discussion on the barriers and challenges to retaining early career teachers. Evidence gathered during the recent review of the core content of ITT and the development of the ECF clearly showed the strength of the partnership is the key to success for teacher training; and that currently teacher training is far too short. The review found many examples of good practice in teacher training but as a system this becomes inconsistent because of the time pressures on providers to fit so much content into such a short period of time. The review also saw some examples within newer ITT partnerships where schools had got very involved in teacher training and had been able to create a seamless pathway between ITT and teachers’ early career pathways. In addition, in developing the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, the DfE found that teacher drop-out rates were increasing earlier and earlier in their careers.
It is hoped that if the ECF is successful and the education system gets behind it and works with it, then it will lead to greatly improved teacher recruitment and retention. This is particularly important as the evidence suggests it takes ten years for teachers to reach their peak performance in the classroom, whilst nearly one in three teachers have already left the profession after five years. In addition, schools in the most challenging areas (in the most need of recruiting and holding on to high quality teachers and leaders) have by far the biggest issues with recruitment and retention and turnover of middle and senior leaders.
Professor Twiselton explained that the framework for initial teacher training was being developed to look very similar to the ECF, in order to better describe a seamless transition between teacher training and what teachers can and should expect during the first two years of their career after qualifying. The framework was likely to be set out in a way that would emphasise both the core knowledge expected of new teachers as well as the core elements of pedagogy; and that there would be an emphasis on trainee teachers being critically reflective, undertaking experience in different schools and focusing on the evidence base when developing their practice. There would also be an entitlement to mentoring for trainee teachers.
Colleagues will be aware that since holding this roundtable event and hearing from Professor Twiselton, the DfE published the ITT core content framework much earlier than anticipated on 1 November 2019.
Reflecting on the inputs from Rachael, Marie-Claire and Professor Twiselton, colleagues considered the discussion questions set out above:
What are the barriers to keeping new teachers in the profession? How are schools across Kyra addressing this? Are there any specific issues relating to Lincolnshire schools?
Colleagues agreed that Kyra is already in a strong position to address the local recruitment and retention issues with regard to new teachers, not least because leadership and culture are the two most important elements in recruiting and retaining teachers; and Kyra has both at its heart.
Marie-Claire asked colleagues to consider how Kyra’s future strategy in this area could best be developed; and to write their ideas on post-it notes, prefaced with ‘What if we?...’
Some of the main themes arising from these suggestions included:
- Start early and ask pupils within Kyra schools what would make them want to be a teacher!
- Think about how we nurture our early career teachers, in the same way that we nurture the children in our schools.
- Ensure that, despite the many challenges of teaching, all our experienced teachers speak positively about the profession and how varied and interesting it is.
- Consider which classes of pupils and students we give to our newest and most inexperienced teachers – it is our duty to support their learning curve to become great teachers and retain them in the profession, not to put them off by giving them the most challenging classes.
- Support newly qualified and early career teachers to develop the ‘soft skills’ that will help them to better work with parents, other colleagues and develop early leadership skills.
- Think about what more we can do to develop the character and culture throughout all our schools, so we are best able to attract and retain new teachers; including ensuring our leaders understand how to best support newly qualified and early career teachers.
- Consider recruiting Kyra ITT students for a five-year career path – demonstrating our commitment to them, enabling experience within different contexts and investing in their careers so that they are more likely to want to stay.
What are colleagues’ views on the proposals (in the ECF)? How do they see the reforms being implemented within their own contexts? What are the opportunities and some of the potential unintended consequences?
Colleagues discussed whether it might be possible to pilot an approach to the ECF within Kyra schools or the LTSA SCITT; whilst being mindful that this could present a capacity challenge for smaller schools in the area.
There was a suggestion that some recent work by James Siddle (Head of St Margaret’s CE School & Kyra Research School) which had developed two-page summaries of teaching topics and lesson plans, could support delivery of the curriculum element of the ECF at a local level. Colleagues agreed the Kyra Research School could have a core role in supporting and enabling implementation of the ECF reforms; and that Kyra and the LTSA SCITT would need to decide together how they will put the appropriate measures in place in order to be able to evaluate implementation of the ECF and all its elements.
Considering how the culture and ethos of Kyra schools could best support teacher recruitment and retention, it was suggested that a ‘professional mentor’ role might form an ‘enhanced offer’ that would also support those new to headship in better supporting new and early career teachers.
Professor Twiselton pointed out that there would be a new specialist ‘Teacher Developer’ NPQ (National Professional Qualification) as part of the new suite of NPQs; and colleagues agreed that they should all be looking over the next few months at which colleagues across Kyra should consider putting themselves forward for this new qualification.
In terms of enabling Kyra to support its schools to be ready for the ECF and to be able to respond in a systematic way, Professor Twiselton emphasised that there will be national training and materials available; and that schools should be able to access information in due course about how the ECF implementation pilots are going and any lessons that can be learned.
Some of the main themes emerging from this discussion included:
- Ensure every leader is involved in the Lincolnshire ECF strategy – and build the strategy into the existing ‘One Plan’ approach to ensure cohesion of approach and alignment with all our other work.
- Focus on implementation of the framework. Acknowledge the workload associated with this and account for it and develop and sustain theories of change.
- Consider how mentor capacity will be ensured and how Kyra could support and enable high quality mentoring – including training mentors before they support new and early career teachers rather than whilst they are actually mentoring them. This should include training mentors to use the ECF.
- Consider creating a CPD/mentor support network to release students/ mentors/ specialist teachers to support across schools.
- Develop a culture of ‘placements’ for NQTs in schools that excel in an area the NQT needs to develop. Whilst this would have cost implications, it would lead to better classroom practice, greater NQT confidence and increased likelihood of retaining the teacher in the profession.
- Focus on evidence based approaches to teacher development e.g. instructional coaching vs high stakes observation.
What are colleagues’ views on a new suite of specialist teaching qualifications and NPQs? Are we doing enough to support, encourage and inspire those talented staff who don’t want to progress into leadership roles? What are the opportunities and challenges around flexible working?
Professor Twiselton emphasised that in the recruitment and retention strategy, the DfE had committed to developing a suite of NPQs, which are seen as an alternative to the traditional leadership pathway.
With regard to the opportunities and challenges around flexible working, Marie-Claire described how Kyra is developing a toolkit to support shared roles and partnership working, but questioned whether more could be done in this area. We know that around 60 per cent of people who leave teaching stay connected with the education sector in some way, so perhaps more could be done to stay connected to these people and still be able to draw on their expertise and experience?
Colleagues agreed that everything that had been discussed during the day presented a big opportunity for Kyra schools to develop a strategy to better support and retain early career teachers and to pioneer this for the benefit of Lincolnshire as a whole. One element of this could be to celebrate the multiple ways in which people can be involved and grow within the system; including reframing the conversation regarding teacher mobility to see it as positive for the individual and the system. Undertaking skills audits, talent spotting and creating space for the development of new roles (such as expert mentors) should all help to keep the ambition alive for talented staff at all levels within and across our schools; and better enable Kyra to develop and retain teachers, leaders and all staff who share our ambition for children.
Some of the main themes emerging from these discussions included:
- Ensure that new and early career teachers realise that ‘headship’ isn’t the only destination on the educational career path; that there are other options and using the new suite of NPQs to demonstrate and support these options.
- Use our existing mechanisms to develop, promote and celebrate our senior “leaders of learning” and showcase them to others as an alternative career path.
- Consider offering a mentoring qualification on a level with the new suite of NPQs.
- Consider developing hubs of schools within Kyra, which are supported by “uber-mentors” for new and early career teachers and by a “culture coach” for senior leaders.
Marie-Claire thanked Professor Twiselton and Rachael Gacs for their inputs to the day; and thanked colleagues for attending and contributing to such a great discussion around the themes and questions.