Should teachers be compensated for not being able to work from home?

A new report on the teacher recruitment and retention crisis suggests compensation for not being able to work from home could be a solution.

Teaching for working mums

 

There perhaps won’t be many parents who don’t know that there is a teacher recruitment and retention crisis going on. Every year the reports come out announcing x is leaving. Every year at parent teacher meetings there are new faces.

A report from the National Foundation for Educational Research [NFER] this week warns the situation is now ‘critical’ in England and poses a substantial risk to the quality of education that children receive. It says urgent and radical actions are needed to address teacher recruitment and retention challenges and predicts 10 out of 17 secondary subjects are “at risk of underrecruiting” in 2024/25, based on applications made up to last month, particularly business studies, physics, music and computing.

Simply doing another round of adverts about going into teaching isn’t going to cut it. Something fundamental needs to change about the nature of the job. The report recommends a “pay premium” for frontline workers and to compensate for the lack of remote and hybrid working opportunities.

Certainly from talking to teachers, many of whom are parents, it seems that lack of flexible working is a big issue. We’ve had a lot of emails in the past about head teachers being completely rigid about requests to job shares or work fewer hours. I advised a friend of mine how to approach the issue not so long ago as he wanted to be completely up on his rights. In part the head teachers seem to be opposed to flexibility because of the lack of teachers to take up the extra hours. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

But is it just about flexible working or more about the nature of teaching today? An event this week at the Cambridge Festival discussed the crisis. In advance, Professor Clare Brooks from the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge wrote about what she views as the problem. She said the recruitment problem is not new or limited to England, but that what the Department for Education is doing is making it worse by undermining the status of teachers and constricting and limiting what new teachers learn.

She said: “Policies which take away all the professional autonomy of teachers and effectively deprofessionalise teaching are likely to scare off the very people who would want to be teachers. Why would a bright graduate, with the world at their feet and a desire to make the world a better place, enter a profession that seeks to control their every move? The teacher recruitment crisis in this country is a crisis exacerbated by the Department for Education.”

As for retention, Professor Brooks says the issue is not the hard work that teachers do. “It’s the sort of performative, bureaucratic, unnecessary work that teachers are expected to do – that’s why teachers leave,” she says. “The over-burdensome levels of accountability, the bureaucracy and lack of trust that government shows in schools has trickled down to how schools treat teachers. It’s not workload that drives teachers away from teaching; it’s poor leadership and high levels of bureaucratic performative accountability.”

Flexible working is definitely important for many teachers, but it doesn’t change the nature of what they do and the status they are accorded, although it is reflective of a leadership that listens to what might make their lives easier. It is that surely engagement with people on the ground that matters and that is the key to finding solutions that work.

 



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