Inspiring the next generation of teachers

What is a school without teachers? Nothing at all. It is as hollow and empty as a library without books or a hospital without doctors. While it would be an exaggeration to say schools are headed that way, it is clear there is a recruitment crisis.

Fewer and fewer teacher training places are being offered at university through PGCE courses. The Government’s Teach First programme is a commendable one, placing trainee teachers in schools in ‘challenging areas’, however that is not the right setting for every trainee nor will it solve shortages in areas which do not fit those criteria. It is also worth noting many Teach First trained teachers do not stay in the profession for longer than a couple of years – convincing these young people to stay in teaching is clearly a huge challenge.

The independent sector is now waking up to the fact we can no longer rely on a stream of talented would-be teachers coming to us through the PGCE route – the courses are simply not there – so we need to start doing more of our own in-house training.

At Headington we use Buckingham University’s Graduate Teacher Programme. This means if we identify someone with potential, even if they have no teaching qualifications, we can bring them into the classroom and they can learn on the job. They can find out whether teaching is the right path for them and if our school is the right fit – and if it is, we will fund their training.

Tomorrow Headington is joining forces with St Helen and St Katharine and with Magdalen College School to host an event aimed at attracting graduates into teaching. Oxford is full of undergraduates considering what their next steps could be – and we hope some of them will decide teaching could be the way forward. Along with the other two schools, we have written to our alumni inviting them along. I myself, an Oxford Science graduate, entered teaching in my early 30s after ten years in the commercial sector, having never previously considered teaching as a possible option. I was fortunate that the PGCE route was available for me. Perhaps if I had received such a letter from my old school I might have entered the world of education sooner.

The biggest difference I can make as a headteacher is to recruit inspirational teachers who are going to be in front of our pupils day after day. We are not here to poach the best teachers from the state sector where expertise is much needed, rather to offer an alternative. Within the independent sector, there are far more opportunities to work within boarding, single sex education or at schools which have rich extra-curricular programmes. So if someone is particularly passionate about pastoral care, a boarding school might appeal, or if a possible teacher would love to spend their non-teaching time on the rugby pitch or directing plays, there is far greater opportunity to do so in the independent sector.

We know there are people out there who are passionate about their subject and fantastic communicators but who may never have previously thought about teaching. I look forward to meeting some of them tomorrow night.

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