Today’s columnist, Sam Twiselton: Make recruitment priority

Classroom stock'General school classroom . 9 July 2002
Classroom stock'General school classroom . 9 July 2002
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At the Sheffield Institute of Education, Heeley MP Louise Haigh’s intervention in Parliament on teacher shortages in our city felt very timely.

In particular, the difficulty in attracting teachers to science and maths subjects is not unique to Sheffield, but one which we have observed across the country.

Together with our partners in schools across the city, we are working hard to ensure that our classrooms are filled with the brightest and best teachers.

As the largest teacher training provider in the region, and one of the largest in the country, more than 700 teachers graduate each year from the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University with many staying in on in Sheffield to teach in our schools.

We are also employ innovative approaches in the way that we tackle a shortage of teachers in science and maths.

We run undergraduate courses in maths, science and design and technology to attract our best students into teaching careers in these critical subjects and ‘topping up’ their subject expertise.

And we work with Sheffield Teaching School Alliance to support the recruitment of physics and maths teachers into the region’s schools.

We offer extra subject specialist training alongside the experience in the physics and mathematics departments found in the Alliance’s schools.

But there are undoubtedly issues – both in terms of the areas of the country where teachers are in short supply, and in terms of shortages in the subjects they teach, which can only be resolved at a national policy level.

Firstly, the government’s current approach to funding and allocating school-based training places on an annual basis means that universities cannot plan as well as we would wish to develop our partnerships, and retain the academic expertise over the long term which will make these partnerships successful.

Secondly, while we are already working to design new teacher training programmes to create specialist teachers in under-recruited areas such as special needs, more needs to be done to attract and retain teachers in shortage subject areas at a national level.

Finally, the traditional university-based PGCE has been supplemented by school-based schemes such as School Direct and Teach First.

We know from experience that school-based schemes are excellent, and they give trainee teachers a real feel for the classroom as well as the academic training they undertake.

But with so many schemes available, rather than presenting prospective teachers with a luxury of choice, there is a real risk that they might find the process confusing and even off-putting.

Universities like Sheffield Hallam have a critical role to play in partnership with local schools in the education of teachers.

We will continue to work with our partners to evolve good practice and grow student numbers.

But Louise Haigh is right, there is no doubt that teacher recruitment faces issues that need resolving at a national policy level, and this should be a priority for the new Conservative government.

* Sam Twiselton, director, Sheffield Institute of Education