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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Teacher crisis 'long-term problem'
classroom
Working conditions for teachers must be improved, Demos says
Teaching is in danger of becoming an "unsustainable profession" with too few high-quality graduates being attracted into the job, research for the National Union of Teachers suggests.

The current shortage of teachers is a long-term rather than a cyclical problem and will only worsen if working conditions are not improved, the survey by the think-tank Demos claims.


If teachers become more involved in the task of transforming schools, standards in the schools themselves are more likely to improve

Matthew Horne, report author
The study suggests all classroom teachers should have a learning support assistant - a move which would cost millions of pounds.

The profession needs to recruit 12% of the graduate population, Demos says, but does not meet the expectations of the modern-day "flexible generation".

Teachers must be given more say in future reforms in education and greater opportunities for self-development.

Standards 'in jeopardy'

If ignored, the situation would put the government's raising standards agenda in jeopardy, said Demos chief executive, Tom Bentley.

The study of 150 teachers in ten secondary and primary schools in England and Wales was carried out in 2000 and 2001.

Tom Bentley
Tom Bentley says the crisis will affect standards
It follows claims by the chief inspector of schools in England, Mike Tomlinson, that the shortage of teachers was worse today that it was in the sixties.

The Department for Education, however, maintains there will be more teachers in post in England at the start of the new term than at any time since 1984.

NUT general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said he could not understand why the government would not acknowledge the full extent of the problem.

"No-one could reasonably blame the Labour government for the present shortage of teachers," said Mr McAvoy.

"It's the result of what happened during the years of the Tory government and wasn't addressed sufficiently by Labour in its first four years."

Teacher involvement

Getting teachers to lead change in schools was a crucial way of making the profession more attractive, Demos argues.

"There is a win-win opportunity for the government here," said report author Matthew Horne.

Matthew Horne
Matthew Horne wants to see teachers more involved in change initiatives
"If teachers become more involved in the task of transforming schools, standards in the schools themselves are more likely to improve, while teaching will begin to be seen as a sustainable career with more opportunity for professional development," he said.

Most of the teachers surveyed felt they had no constructive part in new initiatives and yet were not opposed to change, but acknowledged its importance, added Mr Horne.

"It's entirely legitimate for an elected government to tell schools what they expect from them," one of the teachers surveyed said.

"But where this government - and all previous government s - have gone wrong, I think, is that they say not only what they expect as a product, but how to go about getting it."

Back to school for inspectors

The Demos report recommends Ofsted inspectors be required to complete 65 days of teaching per year in the appropriate area.

"School inspectors should also pass their own competence threshold, and be experts in the curriculum discipline and age range under their inspection," the report says.


Inspectors are just a bunch of retired teachers who couldn't hack it in the classroom

One of the teachers surveyed
Most teachers did not object to the concept of inspection and the need for quality control, said Mr McAvoy.

But they had the right to know those inspecting them had been in the system recently and could offer useful advice, he added.

"You've got to get people in who know what they're talking about," said one of the teachers questioned.

"If we are being regulated, we have to have faith in who is doing the regulating... which really hasn't happened in the past.

"They are just a bunch of retired teachers who couldn't hack it in the classroom."

'Number one choice'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We are determined that teaching should become a number one choice for graduates and are taking action to help the profession appeal to younger teachers."

Classroom
The government has commissioned a review into teachers' workload
Training applications from graduates this year were a up 18%, the spokeswoman said.

The career prospects for new teachers was good, with teachers able to look forward to support from teaching assistants and help with potentially disruptive pupils.

"Our full review of teacher workload issues is exploring the options for managing the pressures on teachers more effectively," she added.

The government has pledged to recruit thousands more classroom assistants over the next few years, as well as 10,000 more teachers.

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