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Can paying teachers more solve the recruitment crisis?

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“Teaching? I’m just in it for the money,” said no one, ever.

A month after its premiere, education professionals are still talking about the Department for Education’s #teachersmake TV advert. Much of the reaction is focused on the final, tantalising promise of earning “up to £65,000 as a great teacher” - a perhaps surprisingly large sum, considering that official statistics show average salary for classroom teachers last year was £34,300.

A lot of the discussion has focused on whether tempting the public with money is the most effective way to get more people training to teach. Research by the OECD suggests that raising salaries could attract more high-quality graduates into the system. It cites the example of Poland, one of the better-performing OECD countries on PISA 2012, which in recent years has increased teachers’ salaries by 50%. Could this work in the UK?

[caption id="attachment_5819" align="alignright" width="240"] A typical school car park - not![/caption]

I decided to take this question to the Academies Show in Birmingham. The programme advertised a number of interesting talks on recruitment, and I was eager to get the expert take on the subject.

I first put the question of salary to Professor John Howson, Honorary Norham Fellow at the University of Oxford, after his talk on ‘Teacher recruitment: myths and the reality for 2016’. He said that there was a group of people for whom salary mattered when considering training to teach, but they would likely be those in their mid-thirties looking for a second career. He added that for graduates leaving university with huge student debts, a PGCE seems like another expensive option.

Elbowing past some slow-walking exhibitors, I grabbed a front-row seat for the panel discussion on recruitment with the general secretaries of three of the teaching unions. Russell Hobby (NAHT) said that pay matters, but that it's also important to tackle the rhetoric of failure that currently permeates education. He warned that we also have to consider the quality of teachers rather than quantity, and make sure we are attracting dedicated people to the profession.

Dr Mary Bousted (ATL) agreed, and said that it is commonly known that teachers work a 55-60 hour week. She added that graduates comparing salaries and lifestyles know they can earn a lot more in the corporate sector for those hours.

Allan Foulds (president of ASCL) said that young people see teaching as an unattractive profession because so many concerns about workload are played out in the media. He said that it is the job of the unions and the professionals to tackle these concerns, while talking up the status of teaching and projecting a more positive impression. This will have the effect of raising teachers' status.

This last comment interested me. Common sense tells us that salary can only do so much in persuading people to do a job which they perceive will make them stressed and unhappy (for example, no amount of money on earth could persuade me to become a reptile handler in a zoo).

So how do we talk up the teaching profession? While simultaneously fixing the problems of workload, I think it may be worth going back to basics and talking about inspiring a love of learning (in fairness to the DfE, I think the rest of its advert does get at this).

Interestingly, Singapore’s Ministry of Education also focuses its teacher recruitment campaign on what teachers make. The promotional video, however, has a very different feel from the DfE version. It's told from the perspective of eight-year-old Tania. Classes look natural and fun, and Tania enthuses about how much she loves her school. The video doesn’t mention pay, and it’s actually very hard to find information on qualified teachers’ salaries on the ministry’s website. Is this putting off Singapore’s future teachers? Apparently not. Rather than a rush to fill empty places, only one out of every eight applicants to Singapore’s teacher training programmes is accepted.

If you’re looking for creative and high-impact ideas to help you recruit, develop and motivate talented teachers for your school, then check out this one-day event from The Key. You’ll hear more about marketing vacancies to the right candidates and find out how to identify, manage and grow the talent.

The Key for School Leaders also has case studies of effective recruitment and an expert panel discussion on how schools can tackle the teacher shortage (login required).

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