This story by Helen Ward in Tes on 11th December 2018

‘Make sure that teaching is seen for what it is – an incredible career,’ advises former education secretary

There is no “quick fix” to the teacher recruitment crisis, former education secretary Justine Greening has said.

Speaking with Tes, Ms Greening, who left the Department for Education in January, said she believed the key to bringing great people into the profession was to offer them a “proper career path”, and added that pay levels were also important.

She said: “The key is, of course, ensuring that pay is competitive but I think, most importantly, making sure that teaching is seen for what it is, which is an incredible career.

“I’d like to see it as a career where people going into it really feel there is a proper career path; where they can develop as professionals.”

Teacher shortages were an urgent issue when Ms Greening took over from Nicky Morgan as education secretary in July 2016, shortly after the Commons Public Accounts Committee published its report, Training New Teachers, which said the government was “woefully aloof” from the growing concern over teacher shortages.

Ms Greening put in place a review of teacher training that has led to the government pledging to lengthen the current induction period from one year to two.

But recruitment remained a challenge at the time of her departure; with the latest figures for the number of trainees beginning postgraduate teacher-training courses in September 2018 showing targets were missed in all but four secondary subjects, it continues to be so.

Ms Greening, who managed to secure an extra £1.3 billion funding for schools while in office, also renewed her call for the government to review education funding.

“I think the government should look again at education funding,” she said. “I think it’s done that on health and rightly so, and I think it also needs to do that on education, and I think it should go alongside fulfilling the social-mobility action plan that I set out. In other words, it should be funding with a mission.”

The social-mobility plan, published in December 2017, set out four ambitions: to close the “word gap” or the gap in early language development between disadvantaged children and their peers; to close the attainment gap at school between disadvantaged children and their peers; to provide more high-quality post-16 education choices; and to provide better opportunities for adults to retrain and gain new skills.

When asked what she believed was the biggest threat to the education system and what should be prioritised, Ms Greening said: “I would be looking at funding, I would be looking at teacher recruitment and I would be demanding a proper implementation of the social-mobility action plan. Not half-closing word gaps that we see children arrive at school with, but fully closing them. Half-closing a gap is half a strategy.”

Current education secretary Damian Hinds’ vision for boosting social mobility has set out an intention within 10 years to halve the number of children finishing Reception year without the expected communication and reading skills.

In 2018, 28 per cent of children did not reach the expected level in communication, language and literacy at the end of Reception.

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