Why teachers need to be upskilled

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There is an increasing amount of evidence showing a crisis in UK teacher recruitment and retention; this is happening as the number of pupils and consequential demand for new teachers begins to rise sharply. Excessive workloads, attacks on pay and few incentives are driving away teachers and new recruits.

Initial Teach Training (ITT) figures for 2017/2018 revealed that the government managed to recruit only 90 percent of the Teacher Supply Model target. The overall contribution to the secondary target was just 80 percent, which meant that nearly 4,000 places went unfilled. The Department for Education (DfE) also found that more than 100,000 potential teachers have never taught, despite having finished their training. There is clearly a problem in that these teaching jobs need extra incentivising to attract new employees.

Further problems arise in these DfE figures: in the 12 months up to November 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) over 50,000 qualified teachers in England left the state sector, which equates to one in ten teachers leaving their profession. Furthermore, a survey by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and YouGov found that over half of teachers were thinking of leaving teaching within the next two years.

What then must be done?

With this apparent mass exodus of professionals from the teaching field it is apparent that something has to be resolved. The crisis in teacher recruitment means that while schools are struggling to fill vacancies,large numbers of pupils are being taught by teachers who do not have a relevant qualification in that subject. One resolution to this problem and an incentive to make the job more appealing is Teacher Subject Specialism Training (TSST). The TSST initiative aims to improve the knowledge of specialist, non-specialist and returning teachers in a range of subjects.

Administrators need to seek a flexible learning solution that will allow teachers to tap into learning programmes whenever and wherever it suits them, including at home. By affording the teachers flexibility in their learning, they are more likely to be enthusiastic and continue the learning process. When choosing an appropriate TSST programme, administrators should look for one that prioritises both content and curriculum so that teachers of all starting abilities can benefit, not just beginners.

TSST programmes are normally digital learning solutions and can assess the learner up front to identify their ability level and training needs, before providing a suitable learning path. Training can include live online tutoring for realistic practice and application, as well as audio and visual content and mobile access. This can afford the teacher-learner the flexibility to choose exactly how, when and where they study.

Why language learning?

The challenge to employ enough suitably skilled teachers is far greater in modern foreign languages (MFL). In MFL, nearly a quarter (24.2 per cent) of all suitably skilled MFL graduates would have to opt for a career in teaching each year to meet demand. Fortunately, TSST programmes are highly suited to language learning; through use of the tailored programme, learners are able to pick up learning a language at whatever level matches their current skillset as adults.

Language learning in TSST can be adopted in a blended learning approach. An example of a blended learning approach is where digital language learning through a computer programme could be delivered alongside face-to-face training to build skills around how to teach language subjects, which can be delivered by teachers at the schools.

One result of this sort of TSST initiative can be that schools are able to fill gaps in their language faculties with teachers who have taken the courses. There are, however, further results; the many benefits of language learning, such as boosted self-esteem, increased well-being and stronger focus, have been well documented. By learning a second language, teachers can achieve greater job satisfaction in their role and therefore be less likely to leave their position.

Language trained teachers are essential for future generations to gain language skills in school; skills they will hopefully go on to develop through life, equipping them to communicate in our global society and helping them to develop an appreciation of our diverse world.

Sabine Schorr, Senior Director, Europe, Rosetta Stone

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