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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

The Weekly Review on Teachers Talk Radio: 11 February 2024

Missed the Teachers Talk Radio Weekly Review - the show where we review the week in education? Catch up with the headlines and the discussion here...


For many teachers, this Sunday marks the weekend before half-term. For many more, there is still one more week to go. Our teachers are back reviewing the week in education on the Weekly Review, with Lucy Neuburger joined by Jo Fox, Paul Hazzard and Brent Poland to discuss teaching apprenticeships, emergency mental health referrals and speech and language development.

The Weekly Review panel of Lucy Neuburger, Jo Fox, Paul Hazzard and Brent Poland


Three young people in a classroom

"How do we ensure that the programme does not become lots of tedious online training after the working day?" Christopher Vowles on the Weekly Review

It's been National Apprenticeship Week this week, and the government has announced a new teaching apprenticeship for non-graduates to begin in 2025. Apprentices will undertake a four-year course, where they would spend "around 40 per cent" of their time studying, at the end of which they will receive a degree and QTS (qualified teacher status).

Previous attempts to establish a non-graduate route into teaching had been frustrated by the former schools minister Nick Gibb, and there is no surprise that this route has been launched less than three months after he left government.

Recruitment to the pilot scheme will begin in the autumn, with the government funding up to 150 apprentices working in secondary schools to teach Maths. These apprentices will obtain QTS in 2029 - by which time we may well have had two more general elections.

Reaction to the new teacher degree apprenticeship has been mixed. Melanie Renowden, CEO of the National Institute of Teaching (set up by the DfE in 2022), has praised the new route as a way of diversifying pathways into teaching.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leaders' union, described the apprenticeship route as a "good idea in principle", yet unlikely to solve the recruitment and retention crisis facing schools. He also raised concerns about how the apprenticeship scheme would be funded - the teacher degree apprenticeship grant funding pilot will only include government funding for the training of one cohort.

Our panel shared their thoughts on the apprenticeship route...

Brent Poland

"We're in the trenches and about to be wiped out. We need backup now. And if that backup is 150 18-year-olds, that's not enough. The government is finding quick and easy ways to promote fast food teaching. We need people who are qualified, not just people off the street with a couple of weeks' training. We're entrusting these people with our children!"

Jo Fox

"Your average member of the public is going to think 'great - that's another person in the classroom'. But they won't understand the rigour that's required to train a teacher. Lots of MATs are in deficit and don't have any money. Are teacher apprenticeships a good way of saving money? Yes. Is it the right way to recruit teachers? Absolutely not."

Paul Hazzard

"This is ridiculous. You can't become a teacher by show and tell. It deprofessionalises the profession. When we all qualified, we had academic rigour and we all reached a certain benchmark of skills, abilities and knowledge. Why doesn't the government look at somewhere like Finland, where teachers need a Master's degree?"


What's the current state of Initial Teacher Training (ITT)? We have a Collection for you...

Two circles that say "Initial Teacher Training" and "Early Career Teacher"

Collections are groups of four shows from the TTR archives grouped around a particular domain specialism. Our Collection on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) contains the following:

Beginning Teacher Training: Samuel Lickiss is joined by Daisy Turner to discuss issues for trainees at the beginning of their teaching journey, such as safeguarding, lesson planning and social media usage.

Managing workload and well-being in ITT: Hannah Wilson is joined by Farzana Akhtar to discuss managing workload, building resilience and finding help and support, to thrive - not just survive - in your IT year.

Reflections on ITT: Kathryn Taylor discusses ITT and the challenges of workload, recruitment and retention with Rachel Hill-Kelly, who shares her experiences of joining the teaching profession and then making the decision to leave.

Are we preparing trainees well enough? Hannah Wilson asks to what extent trainee teachers are prepared for the realities of teaching? What do you wish you knew before? How can we change teacher training for the better?


A young child on a roundabout in a playground

"How would [raising the school starting age] affect mothers who wanted to go back to work? It could be another year where outgoings are cut to pay for childcare" Hannah Wilson on the Weekly Review

MPs and health leaders have warned of a "devastating explosion of mental illness" as the number of children referred to emergency mental healthcare in England has soared by more than 50 per cent in three years.

Official data by the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that in 2022-23, there were 32,521 emergency and urgent referrals to child and adolescent mental health services crisis teams - up from 21,242 in 2019-20. This means that more than 600 mentally ill children a week are deteriorating to such a state that they have reached crisis point.

Many of the children requiring emergency care have been stuck on waiting lists for an average of five months - and, in the worst cases, as long as two years.

An emergency referral is normally made if a child needs to be seen within 24 hours. They might be a risk to themselves due to suicidal feelings, have a significant health risk because of an illness such as anorexia, or have another serious mental health condition.

Last year, the government announced that an extra £5m would be invested to improve access to early support hubs for people aged 11 to 25. But the Royal College of Psychiatrists warns that an extra £125m to £205m would be needed to establish hubs in every local authority.

Our panel shared their thoughts on the mental health crisis affecting our young people...

Paul Hazzard

"It's important to remember that the mental health crisis doesn't solely belong to schools or the UK. It's about what young people are facing - social media and gaming are big problems for all young people. Cries for help through self-harm and depression begin to emerge in schools. Teachers meet young people every day. We can have outstanding pastoral care in schools where children feel known - but we're not therapists."

Jo Fox

"As a pastoral leader, we've spent the past couple of years talking about curriculum development on the pastoral side of things. We need to do something different with these young people. What can we do to use curriculum time better to support human development, social interactions, managing disputes effectively? Failure to address these things can lead to anxiety. But it's all about the money - what can schools do?"

Brent Poland

"I stay behind after school on a Thursday with my GCSE group and make them a cup of tea and ask them how they are. How can I help them learn if their mind isn't in the right place to learn? Whatever government comes in not only needs to identify the skills gap, but also needs to elevate PSHE to where it should be as a subject."


Interested in learning more about the mental health crisis engulfing young people? We have the show for you...

Hannah Wilson is joined by Ben West, an award-winning mental health campaigner, to discuss the stunning statistics covering how many students are struggling with their mental health. What can schools do differently to support students and break the stigma around mental health?


A computer keyboard with keys missing

"When you are stripping away layers of accountability it's undemocratic. We elect politicians to make decisions - who chooses CEOs and trustees?" Brent Poland on the Weekly Review

The Let's Talk Communication Coalition has called on all political parties to address the "ongoing impact of the pandemic on children's speech, language and communication development" by including targeted support on speech and language development in their election manifestos.

The coalition is made up of more than 50 organisations, including the NASUWT teachers' union. It raises the alarm as new data from NHS England shows that the number of children and young people on the NHS waiting list for speech and language therapy rose to more than 72,000 last month.

Data from November 2023 revealed that the proportion of four- and five-year-olds judged to have reached expected levels of learning at the end of Reception remains low compared with pre-pandemic levels. A report from January 2023 found that nearly half of children in EYFS were unable to eat independently, use the toilet or communicate clearly.

Derek Munn, director of policy and public affairs at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said: "Spoken language and communication is central to children and young people's educational attainment and life chances, and the matter is urgent".

Our panel discussed the Coalition's call for action...

Jo Fox

"Ultimately austerity and cuts to services have happened everywhere. The pandemic had a big impact as well. Normal human interactions and communication skills have declined. Not everyone gets taken to the aquarium at the weekend or gets books read to them at home. Where there is a disconnect between that and a speech and language deficit, it automatically leads to a communication gap."

Paul Hazzard

"This is as big a crisis as the mental health crisis - children lost out on conversation over breakfast, dealing with a range of adults, talking to their peers, using talk in the classroom. The vocabulary gap is growing. Literacy flows on a sea of talk. What do we need to do? We need a research-led programme for teachers on promoting talk in schools."

Brent Poland

"We can only do so much catch-up when society and the government isn't helping us. In the earliest years possible, prevention is better than cure when it comes to spoken language."


What's the current state of play with EYFS? Here's a show to find out more...

Ruth Swailes

Ruth Swailes joins the TTR airwaves to discuss the challenges, best practice and importance of working in EYFS.


Want to listen to the discussion in full? Catch up with the full show, plus a message from our sponsors John Catt Educational, here.

A graphic for our sponsors John Catt: educational publishers since 1959.

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