Schools “requiring improvement” should be allowed to train teachers, Ofsted says

Some schools in Ofsted’s “requires improvement” category should be allowed to train teachers, because restricting trainees to “good” and “outstanding” schools is making it harder for struggling schools to recruit, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector made the suggestion during a speech at the Festival of Education at Wellington College today. He said recruitment was much harder for schools in “challenging schools in deprived or isolated communities”.

Rules that only strong schools could run training programmes meant that “areas with a high proportion of struggling schools and few good ones have a shortage of school-led training”, he said. “Perhaps there should be more flexibility when deciding which schools can lead teacher training. Why, for example, can’t a grade 3 [requires improvement] school with a great new head take a lead on teacher training?”

Sir Michael added that Ofsted would be “very, very critical” of teacher training providers that “don’t have regard for sending new recruits out into requires improvement schools and schools that are struggling”.

Struggling schools were “trapped in a vicious circle” in which they “can’t easily recruit good teachers because they are struggling, but they can’t improve because they can’t recruit good teachers,” he added.

Sir Michael said some schools made “Herculean” efforts to recruit teachers, adding that a secondary school in East Anglia conducted 75 rounds of interviews last year.

A team of senior inspectors was carrying out a review of “how much progress has been made towards tackling this pressing recruitment issue”, he told the conference.

More than half of headteachers that the inspectors had spoken to were having “serious difficulties in recruiting good staff”, he said. And a third were covering maths and science teaching posts with temporary staff who did not have the right skills.

After his speech, Sir Michael was asked how he would address concerns that Ofsted’s inspections were deterring deputy headteachers from becoming headteachers, because they believed the “incremental pay rise against the Ofsted pressure doesn’t make it worthwhile”.

He said deputies in that position should “have some courage for goodness sake”, adding: “Go into headship, go into an requires improvement school, go into a special measures school and make your name.”

He also told a teacher working at a private school to move to the state sector because “you’ll enjoy it a lot more there and it will enrich your soul much more than working in the private sector”.

During a question-and-answer session, a Hampshire headteacher told Sir Michael that more had to be done to improve teachers’ pay and conditions. “I’ve had to talk to some of my young staff about the fact that they’re working in second jobs at pizza restaurants and the like because they just cannot afford to live in what is an expensive area of the country and carry on teaching,” he said.

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