We’ve ambition in spades when it comes to becoming the best in Europe. But there’s a major problem: where are we going to find the qualified teachers to teach key subjects?
Many schools currently report acute difficulties recruiting teachers for Stem and languages. Some students are going for months on end without qualified teachers. The pipeline of teachers due to graduate in these subjects indicates the problem may well get worse. The matter has been left drift for too long. The Government will need to take decisive steps this year, such as subject quotas for teacher-training, or financial incentives for science or language graduates to study teaching.
The two-tier pay gap is set to dominate teachers’ conferences at Easter. Those hired after January 2011 still earn less than their more experienced colleagues – though the bulk of the gap has been bridged.
Expect plenty of heat at these gatherings – but much not much light. That’s because the public sector pay commission (known informally as the “route to the loot”) isn’t due to report until autumn. Additional money – if any is agreed – won’t be available until 2019 at the very earliest.
The biggest shake-up to the primary curriculum in decades is coming. A major report is due towards the end of this year. Based on research on how children learn, the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) is set to place a much greater emphasis on creative play during the early years of primary. Schools may also be given more flexibility on time allocated to religion or patrons’ programmes. This may, in time, lead to religion being taught outside the regular school day.
The baby boom of recent years means our primary school population is set to peak next September. This population bulge is set to pass through to second level in a few years’ time. That’s why there’s such frantic school-building taking place. The building programme is also under pressure, having slipped behind target in 2017. Money is also tight this year – so much so that minor works grants won’t be paid this year. If there’s further slippage, given the demand for school places, things could get very tricky.