'Teaching faces a recruitment challenge, but it will come back around. It has to'

Posted on: 2018-03-20 09:00:00

There’s this myth that if you go to university to do a PGCE that it is all about theory and not practice, but two thirds of the year is spent in two different schools, so there is very much a practical element. Student teachers are supported by a university tutor and school-based mentors. With the PGCE there’s a contract between the school and university with the student teacher, which makes it clear they are auxillary members of staff and they work alongside experienced teachers who gradually let go to give them a sense of being responsible for the class.

It’s like a triangle between the individual who is trying to become a teacher, the school, and the university – all working together to support that person to become a great teacher.

The PGCE is a widely recognised and respected professional qualification, both here and abroad, giving teachers more than just qualified teacher status to work in English schools. Different universities offer different master’s levels credits, but the secondary PGCE at UCL Institute of Education offers 60 credits, a third of a master’s degree. These university-school partnerships create an environment that encourages a spirit of experimentation, informed by research.

While the education sector faces ongoing challenges with recruitment, retention is also a big problem – the exit figures are shocking. People are leaving teaching in droves. A lot could be done to take the pressure off teachers to make it a more attractive proposition. Schools are very aware they are very closely monitored and a lot of work goes into just proving they’re doing a good job. Teachers should be respected and given professional autonomy.

If you’re going to do exciting and interesting things with a school-age group you can either research it, plan it and put together the resources – or spend that time entering numbers into boxes to prove the class you teach is meeting expected targets. I know where I’d rather place my energy.

Teachers are often in school from 8am until 6pm, teaching 22 hours a week, to classes of around 30 children. At the end of a day secondary school teachers may have interacted with more than 200 people and it’s exhausting. Is it any surprise that many wonder if they are getting enough back for all they have to give?

Education is about making a difference, working with young people, fostering their curiosity, showing them the possibilities that lie ahead. It’s really exciting. And if children meet one or two inspiring adults each day it can make such a difference for them.

I have worked in education since 1986 and while I don’t think that we’re in a particularly great place at the moment, I have to believe that it will come back around. It has to.

Caroline Conlon is a lecturer in Education and PGCE tutor at the UCL Institute of Education.

Source: Guardian

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