Education secretary, Nicky Morgan, is introducinfg new measures to attract more women and part time teachers into the profession and help tackle the recruiment crisis.
Mentoring, more flexible working, targeted recruitment for women and extra support for returners are all on the government’s agenda.
Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference in Birmingham today, Ms Morgan acknowledged the growing difficulties that many schools have in getting the teachers they need.
“We know that recruitment is a challenge,” she said during a brief 15 minutes speech.
“We hear your concerns, and we know that while headline data shows a sustained low national vacancy rate, the reality on the ground for many heads is that they are struggling to attract the brightest and the best.”
But she added: “Let’s not inadvertently create a vicious cycle where talk of a crisis actively puts people off entering the profession – let’s focus on communicating to the outside world what a great profession teaching is, how rewarding it can be, and what good teachers have the power to do.”
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Ms Morgan, who is also minister for women, she said she had several ideas on how to encourage more female teachers and “returners” to the profession into the classroom.
“One is obviously in terms of particularly targeting with recruitment and encouraging women to think about coming back into teaching,” she said.
“But also in terms of mentoring. I think it was TES itself that had that article about one of the issues about women progressing in the profession is about confidence so ‘what can we do to support that?’.
“And there are other sectors where you see that they offer specific support for returners to work, so things like subject knowledge enhancement. If you have been out of the profession for a number of years actually again building confidence in whatever you were doing in the classroom and how the classroom has changed.
“And I think also in terms of really encouraging schools to think about the benefits of having people working flexibly. There must be things that schools can do in terms of timetabling. I spend my life as minister for women encouraging employers to think about different ways in which they can recruit women but also keep them in the professions to which they joined.”
More details of her drive “to support part time teachers and particularly women” are expected to be unveiled tomorrow.
It follows Friday’s report from Policy Exchange and ASCL which stated that between 2008 and 2012 an estimated 6,000 women aged between 30 and 39 left the profession each year.
On the report, Ms Morgan stressed that “flexibilities” should be explored for teachers who have their own children. “There must be things that schools can do in terms of timetabling,” she said.
She also acknowledge that primary teachers had had a “tough year” with new assessments and changes. “This is a difficult year but I think we need the changes to bed in,” Ms Morgan said.
On workload, the education secretary said the results from teacher review groups were due to be published this spring. “The next challenge will be for schools to adopt the recommendations and I think we can all work together to make sure that happens,” she added.