Laura McInerney: When even Hawaii has teacher shortages, what can Blackpool do?

Writing in the Guardian, Laura McInerney says the UK could learn lessons from the US and Europe on recruiting teachers in tough areas.

Hawaii has a problem recruiting teachers – even though it’s 85 degrees there every day, the state boasts 120 miles of golden shoreline and it’s regularly rated one of the happiest places in the US. So if Hawaii is struggling, imagine the problem in Blackpool…

Research by the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team has shown that people are more likely to click on teacher recruitment adverts if they sell the challenge of the job rather than its social purpose. In England, instead of talking down the difficulties of teaching in tough areas, we should talk them up. Some recruiters are already capitalising on this in their marketing; others should follow.

Alternatively, the government could focus on keeping the teachers we have…

On this, though, Europe can teach us a lesson. In many countries a contract-hours model exists in schools: teachers decide how many classes they wish to teach and agree with the school to do just that, flexing their hours annually as personal circumstances change. The increasing deregulation of teacher pay means this is an option here, too. Why schools haven’t done so is a mystery.

None of this helps Blackpool, though. Last October Nicky Morgan alluded to the idea of a National Teaching Service, which might help areas that have more challenging schools and few natural pull factors for graduates. Teachers who signed up would be employed by central government and seconded to schools across England, and would be paid extra for their willingness to travel. It would be a commitment in the Conservative manifesto, she said. It wasn’t – all has gone quiet since.

Perhaps one other American idea could help. A social enterprise called Teach Plus, which began in Massachusetts and has spread, attracts teachers to tough areas by recruiting them into “turnaround teams” and, in return, offers better training and a voice in local policymaking. Teachers work with health, housing and policing professionals, which anchors them to the community, making them more likely to stay. The programme operates in difficult east coast cities such as Baltimore, and is in its early days, but interest is growing…

More at: When even Hawaii has teacher shortages, what can Blackpool do?


Some very interesting insights and ideas from Laura McInerney here. 

Should schools in disadvantaged areas start making a feature of the scale of the challenge rather than pretending it doesn’t exist? 

And what about the idea of flexible contract-hours ideas – that seems like a no-brainer for helping retention?

Any of suggestions you would add to helping solve the recruitment crisis? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Bedtonman

    SchoolsImprove completely misses the point teachers are massively overworked and undervalued by Government’s Laura says nothing about this

  2. wasateacher

    Turn schools into exam factories, children into cans of baked beans to come off a production line, put teachers in straight jackets, privatise education so money can be leached out of the classroom, and what do you expect?  If you try to make teachers into automatons with piles of forms to fill, you will not attract people into the profession.

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