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7th June 2024

Introducing Tim Clark’s new education report ‘Better Schools: the Future of the Country’

Ronel Lehmann


“The number of empty teaching posts in England has more than doubled in the past three years”

(BBC 6th June 2024)

A stark headline, following the publication of the latest DfE figures, published last Thursday. Figures reveal that the government has missed its target for recruiting trainee teachers “for nine of the past ten years”. What makes this “the perfect storm”, however, is that the retention of existing teachers, as well as the recruitment of new ones, is also in crisis. The figures show that the number of teachers leaving the profession is the highest since 2010 with almost 9% quitting for reasons other than death or retirement.

Over the past twelve months, two reports written by Tim Clark, “Better Schools: The Future of the Country”, have focussed primarily on how we can improve our schools at little or no cost. All his recommendations stem from a lifetime in state education and two phenomenally successful headships; the epithet, “a Titan in education” is well deserved. We all recognise that money is finite and that the public purse is not bottomless, but positive change and development does not always have to have a large price tag. Of course, our teachers must be well paid, as befits an essential and crucially important profession, but remember that more than one half of teachers did not even vote in last year’s strike ballots. Most teachers quitting the profession early [one third of new recruits quit within five years] do not quote pay as the key determinant: more frequently the reasons include workload, poor pupil behaviour (adding to workload), weak leadership (failing to deal with behaviour and workload), Ofsted and a lack of respect for the profession. As our reports demonstrate, with the right approach and policies, all of the above can be tackled quickly, effectively and at little expense.

Unlike the previous two reports, which discuss a variety of topics, Tim’s latest report looks solely at one specific area of education: SEND. Almost 20% of children are recognised as having a disability or as requiring some level of additional support. SEND provision is complex, expensive and challenging. Some topics, such as the exclusion of SEND pupils or the role of special schools, are controversial. With his usually clarity, Tim clearly explains the background to the current approach to SEND and explains the difficulties surrounding such issues as identification and funding. As with previous reports, his latest ends with a list of practical recommendations. Some of these will require additional funding but, as he convincingly argues, better early diagnosis of need and relevant intervention could save money in the long run.

Ultimately, the first essential requisite for catering for SEND pupils is precisely the same as that for providing for pupils without additional needs – a full complement of experienced, well trained and highly motivated classroom teachers. Only when the current teacher recruitment and retention crisis is resolved will we be able to look forward to a truly world class school system which benefits every young person and, indeed, the country as a whole.

 

Read Tim Clark’s latest bi-annual June report here:

 

 

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