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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

The Weekly Review on Teachers Talk Radio: 7 April 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...


The Weekly Review is back! Our host Lucy Neuburger and panelists Christopher Vowles, Brent Poland and John Gibbs reviewed the week in education: the latest recruitment woes, Julia Waters taking the NEU to task on Ofsted, and the possibility of further strikes by teachers.

The Teachers Talk Radio Weekly Review panel of Lucy Neuburger, Christopher Vowles, Brent Poland and John Gibbs


Schools Week, The Times, The Guardian: DfE faces more recruitment woes

Harris Federation CEO Sir Dan Moynihan with a picture of the Jamaican flag

"My worry is that this policy will damage the education systems of countries like Jamaica" Christopher Vowles on the Weekly Review

The Department for Education has awarded a £15,000 contract to an "innovative" classroom-based simulation tool that aims to improve teacher recruitment - as it pulls funding for foreign students training to be Physics and MFL teachers and empties the classrooms of other countries in search of qualified teachers.

Teacher Success Platform, a spin-out company from the University of York, has received a year-long contract to provide "access to job preview tools". Animated videos present a series of "realistic" classroom scenarios to prospective trainees, who can watch a classroom situation unfold before they respond to a teaching dilemma - such as a child using their mobile phone in class or dealing with a tricky parent.

A nine-month pilot took place last year involving 900 trainee teachers, and a survey of those who took part indicated that four in five were more interested in exploring teaching as a career.

Meanwhile, international trainee teachers will no longer be eligible for an international relocation payment (IRP) of £10,000, in a decision made by the DfE on Wednesday without notice. It applies to trainees who have already accepted places to train in England from September.

The DfE cut the financial incentive one year into a two-year pilot programme, having previously announced in October last year that the IRP would continue. The payment covered visa fees, travel and NHS payments.

Louis Barson, Director of Science at the Institute of Physics, said:

“We are halfway through a pilot and large numbers of high-quality trainee physics teachers are expecting to come and start courses in September. This decision is incredibly disruptive to them and to teacher training centres. We may now lose some of these much-needed trainees altogether.” Louis Barson, Institute of Physics

In the meatime, schools are using work visas to recruit qualified teachers from overseas, following the NHS and social care. Last year, nearly 1,100 work visas were issued to qualified secondary school teachers, double the 555 visas issued in 2022. Jamaica alone supplied 486 qualified teachers in 2023 - twice as many compared to the previous year.

This is having a knock-on effect in Jamaica. The Jamaica Teachers' Association reported that some schools had vacancies unfilled for over a year, and subjects were being cut due to teacher shortages. In some areas, teachers are working between two schools, or a teacher is teaching live in one school and being streamed to another.

What did our panel make of the latest recruitment news?

Christopher Vowles

"Having had friends in Australia and New Zealand struggling to get their teaching credentials recognised by the DfE, I'm surprised that teachers from Jamaica have got jobs here more easily. My worry is that this policy will damage the education systems of countries like Jamaica, where there is a limited supply of teachers already. We should be making the profession appealing for British citizens."

John Gibbs

"When I first went into teaching, there was a big recruitment day with 20-30 teachers looking round the school. When I left teaching, you were lucky to get one or two teachers applying for a job. Make teaching more attractive to recruit more teachers... [recruiting teachers from Jamaica] is a morally dubious recruitment drive. It's short-termist - it's not the answer."

Brent Poland

"It's normal in teaching to have people move between countries. But it's not sustainable at the moment. There's a professional brain drain in the NHS and teaching may well follow that. It's symptomatic of everything that is wrong."


How are schools recruiting with so many teacher shortages?

A post-it note saying "teachers wanted!"

Tom Rogers looks at the strategies and tactics that schools on the frontline are using to try and save money, whilst maximising the number of applicants for the roles they have on offer. He's joined by Sufian Sadiq, Wayne Cartmel and Kate Fahey.


Julia Waters speaking at NEU conference

"If Ofsted is to be redeemed it has to completely change its culture" Brent Poland on the Weekly Review

Julia Waters, sister of the late headteacher Ruth Perry, warned the NEU's conference this week that it should stop seeking to abolish Ofsted - but warned that delays to significant reforms of the inspectorate would "put more lives at risk".

Motion 9 at conference was passed unanimously by NEU members, calling for Ofsted to be abolished. The motion was amended to go further than the initial call to "replace" Ofsted.

Daniel Kebede, the NEU's General Secretary, said:

“NEU members have made their feelings very clear: Ofsted causes more harm than good and we need urgent and fundamental reform. The profession can be trusted to do their jobs effectively without a punitive, high-stakes system to keep them in line." Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the NEU

But Julia Waters, speaking at conference on Saturday, said she was "cautiously hopeful" that new Chief Inspector Sir Martyn Oliver "has the ambition, determination and drive to see through real change” whilst warning the NEU that calls to abolish Ofsted would inevitably be unsuccessful. Watch her speech below:

What did our panel have to say on the future of Ofsted?

Brent Poland

"As always Julia Waters is extremely brave and speaks from the heart, going against the grain. As much as I respect her, I do want to abolish Ofsted. The trust is gone and there's no willingness to change. The direction of travel has been more accountability, more data, more government interference... Ofsted hasn't supported us. If Ofsted is to be redeemed it has to completely change its culture."

Christopher Vowles

"I don't want to see Ofsted abolished... I think [Julia] Waters makes a reasonable contribution about the future of inspection. Ofsted needs to be staffed by those with a good understanding of the difference between good and bad practice. I sometimes wonder whether there might be scope for establishing a lottery system whereby a certain percentage of teachers from each school can be summoned to serve as inspectors, like the jury system, where they have particular expertise."

John Gibbs

"I was surprised by Julia's speech, it was a great speech but I found it confusing because it was about semantics. If the problem with Ofsted is everything about it, should it be changed or abolished? In Finland there's a highly regarded education system where they have consortiums of schools who inspect each other in a co-operative manner. It does appear to be a different way of doing it."


The Ruth Perry inquest: TTR extended special

Ruth Perry

In a three-hour special, Brent Poland and Adam Spence explore the outcome of the coroner's inquest into the death of Ruth Perry with special guest Edmund Barnett-Ward, plus contributions from Brian Lightman, Paula King, Robert Hewitt, Flora Cooper, Krissy Carte, Jen Knussen and Tracey Boulton.


NEU General Secretary Daniel Kebede

"Teachers are angry. They never wanted to go on strike. It's always more than just money - there are a number of pressures" John Gibbs on the Weekly Review

The NEU will not be holding an immediate formal ballot for strike action in schools, instead delaying any ballot until the government has announced its pay offer for schools.

The results of the NEU's indicative ballot showed that 9 in 10 members who responded supported industrial action.

However, the turnout of the online ballot was just 50.3% - twelve percentage points down on the last indicative ballot on the question in autumn 2022 - and suggests that a postal ballot would struggle to achieve the 50% turnout required by the government for industrial action to commence.

The amended motion at conference called on the NEU executive to "intensify campaigning and mobilising our members prior to the government's pay offer and funding settlement for 2024-25." Delegates rejected an amendment that called on the union to "launch, no later than the first week of June, a national strike ballot on funding and pay, to close before the end of September".

Meanwhile, the NASUWT union has announced it will not be balloting its members on industrial action, instead focusing on "political campaigning". 78 per cent of members did not support a move to a formal ballot - though the union has not made it clear whether this includes members who did not respond to its online consultation.

What did our panelists have to say about the delays to balloting for industrial action?

John Gibbs

"It's not a surprise that strike action is being talked about. Teachers are angry. They never wanted to go on strike. It's always more than just money - there are a number of pressures. The government won't want strikes going on during an election campaign."

Brent Poland

"We should have continued the strikes when all the unions were prepared to come out - it was a mistake not to. There was momentum and a routine. The 6.5% pay rise was a pay cut compared to inflation. Teachers have lost more pay than anyone else in the public sector. Gone are the days of the cushty little number. In my generation of teachers it was very rare to strike, but we've reached that point."

Christopher Vowles

"I don't think teaching unions should be calling for strike action in a general election year. There's a time and a place. The NASUWT has described the NEU's motion as 'gesture politics'. I think it's a warning to Keir Starmer about what the left are expecting from a Labour government."


Why did the last period of strikes come to a close?

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan

Brent Poland discusses a dramatic day in election as strikes were on, then off, as the four education unions accepted the 6.5% pay offer from the DfE with a range of callers.


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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