Much has been written recently about the need to recruit and retain teachers. The term sabbatical is often then trotted out as a potential solution. This is not a new phenomenon. It's been around for my whole career. Perhaps it takes politics a long time to catch up with real need.
When I heard the term golden handcuffs, with regard to teachers, I wondered if I had fallen into a new plotline for “Fifty Shades…” However, it would appear that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the retiring head of Ofsted was advocating some kind of “bung” to say thank you to some groups of teachers for doing their job for a few years after qualifying. This same group may well have already received a bursary to cover their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) fees and living costs.
They may take a little while to really prove their worth. In the meantime, their colleagues, who may have been in post for significantly longer and will be doing the same job well, will not receive the pot of gold, as they have already shown their willingness to stay in service.
It could just begin to feel a little unbalanced, in a relatively short time.
In 1972, during my ITE period, Lord James of Rusholme produced a lengthy report looking into teacher education and seeking to reinforce quality provision across the whole sector. It is worth looking at what was proposed then.
- teacher training should be seen as falling into three consecutive 'cycles': the first, personal education, the second, pre-service training and induction, the third, in-service education and training;
- teacher training should be administered and planned by Regional Councils for Colleges and Departments of Education (RCCDEs);
- a National Council for Teacher Education and Training (NCTET), linked with the RCCDEs and representing all branches of the teaching profession, should be established;
- in the third cycle, all teachers in schools and full-time staff in FE colleges should be entitled to paid release for in-service education and training for not less than one school term every seven years;
- there should be a national network of 'professional centres';
- teachers in schools and colleges should have opportunities to take part in curriculum development projects;
This was over forty years ago. Needless to say that it didn’t become a total reality, although some elements became part of my early career, especially 5 and 6, especially the Teacher's Centre and the opportunity to be seconded to the Assessment of Performance Unit, with Dr Wynne Harlen, although both have largely gone.
The bit that encouraged me to get out into the world and teach, rather than stay on longer, as I was invited to do, was point 4, the opportunity to return for a period of in-service training, after seven years in service. For a teacher of seven years’ experience that would have cost somewhere around £10000, so could appear expensive.
However, having the potential of a sabbatical period, with study creating an incentive for the next seven years, might just be the fillip needed to restore equilibrium.
We need to start rewarding teachers for long service, not for a short period as a stop gap. That way the system can grow, utilising the stability engendered, to avoid constant reinvention, allowing evolution, not revolution.
If someone has had a bursary to cover their training costs, I think they already owe something back; three years doesn’t seem too much to ask.