Sir Michael Wilshaw is concerned about the teacher ‘brain drain’ as teachers are attracted to work abroad in leading private schools that have set up overseas franchises. He is concerned about the staffing crisis in schools and he suggests that policy makers should look into providing ‘golden handcuffs‘ to ensure staff stay in the state sector for an amount of time. You can read his report here.
He doesn’t mention that some of those teachers going abroad might be doing so to get as far enough away from him and OfSTED as possible.
Now, I am not against the idea of paying staff more but I also think that there is far too much contact time in the average school day for most staff; if something was done to increase non-contact time allowing teachers to calmly plan and mark and do all the other things they have to do without having to be constantly ‘on the go’ then that might help recruitment and retention. However, I can’t help but think that at least part of the perceived problem might be down to some of the comments made by Wilshaw himself over the years.
For example: he uttered the words: “If anyone says to you that: ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you know you are doing something right.” As reported in the Guardian, Monday 23rd January 2012 . Maybe the staff with low morale took it upon themselves to get out of the profession, after all their low morale was a sign of the system being led correctly.
Just in case the staff with low morale were feeling stressed, on 10th May 2012, Wilshaw decided to take them on, he is reported to have said that [teachers]: “Too often make excuses for poor performance – it’s just too hard, the children are too difficult, the families are too unsupportive, this job is far too stressful.” Maybe teachers with low morale, who were feeling stressed, decided that this was the time for them to leave, or look for pastures new… maybe it just sowed a seed that grew over the years saying ‘it’s time to get out…’
Headteachers weren’t spared Wilshaw’s wrath either:
“I have no time for head teachers who go around moaning,” Sir Michael told heads, teachers and academics at the Institute of Education, in London. “They have to get on and do it. “They are now paid well – they are paid much better than ever. All the resources are in the schools. They have got to grasp the nettle and improve their schools and I have little time for heads who don’t accept the challenge.”
Knowing that the person ultimately responsible for inspecting your school has little time for you if you dare to ‘moan’ about something just might make head teachers or aspiring head teachers think twice about whether the job is respected, after all it is such a responsible position in our society, that if a head teacher has a moan the least one can do is listen to it. It is through a lack of listening to people’s moans in our institutions that is possibly the cause of a lot of the build up of problems that seem, according to Wilshaw, be bearing fruit with our recruitment and retention crisis.
Suffice to say, it might not just be a problem to solve with handcuffs, perhaps by trying to reduce the daily stresses on every day classroom teaching might help. It would help to work out why some staff have low morale and not celebrate this. If some teachers are saying the job is too stressful instead of denigrating them it might be useful to work out why and see if anything can be done. And if head teachers are moaning, then listen to what they are saying, spend time with them rather than say you have no time for them.
As Wilshaw reaches the end of his time at Ofsted, I wonder if he will reflect on whether he has helped exacerbate any of the problems he now sees in the system and also whether, going forward, Ofsted, in its current form, is part of the solution.