Shortage of experienced teachers hurts skills attainment
and economic performance in the UK
A new report by the Lifelong Education Commission, in partnership with the Chartered Institution for Further Education, Developing Industry-Expert Teaching for Higher Skills argues that the Further Education and Skills sector is facing a growing crisis in recruiting and retaining staff who can combine up-to-date experience and expertise in industry with the ability to teach young and adult students to a high standard.
Issues of pay, conditions, and training in the FE sector, as well as fragmented policies and funding pots, all make it very difficult to attract and retain teaching professionals who can expertly guide the new generations of the UK’s vast talent pool. This leads to lower attainment, especially in technical qualifications, and hurts the UK’s commercial prospects and wider economy.
The urgent need to improve the teaching of technical skills in particular, is accepted by the education sector, employers of all kinds, and Government. But recent policy initiatives and funding are widely seen as a ‘drop in the ocean’, raising concerns that it will take a long time to revive an FE and skills sector which has languished in financial difficulties for so long.
To reverse the situation, bold action is needed, as stated in the report’s key recommendations:
The DfE should recognise the importance of the FE and skills sector in the continued recruitment of industry professionals and actively support the sector in attracting and retaining dual professional teaching staff as a key element of its long-term strategy for workforce development.
As soon as possible, funding for colleges delivering technical courses in skills shortage sectors should be increased to a sufficient level to enable expert teaching staff to be paid at rates comparable to those in the private sector.
The DfE should move away from piecemeal initiatives towards a more integrated strategy for increasing the volume of industry-expert teachers.
Initial teacher training for FE lecturers should be reviewed and modified to better reflect the role of dual professional and support their transition into teaching.
The Government needs to speed up the evaluation of the effectiveness of new initiatives and publish the results to enable the most promising new practices to be identified and disseminated across the further education sector.
The collection and reporting of FE workforce data by the DfE from now on needs to be detailed enough to facilitate analysis of the proportion and range of industry-expert teachers, in order to enable better planning for their recruitment and retention.
Future workforce development policies and strategies for delivery of Level 4 and 5 should apply across the post-18 sector, addressing the HE as well as the FE sector.
The DfE should build on the ideas being developed by the Chartered Institution for FE to mobilise direct employer support and resources to improve higher technical skills training and explore how such approaches could be scaled up to national level.
The Treasury should consider providing incentives, such as tax breaks for companies and individuals, to encourage the release of members of staff to deliver higher skills teaching.
Andy Forbes, Head of Development at the Lifelong Education Commission who authored the report, said:
“Those colleges racing to improve the country’s technical skills risk getting stuck on the starting blocks if they can’t recruit teachers with up-to-date industry expertise. Colleges need practical support to tackle a growing crisis, and they need it urgently.”
The Rt Hon The Lord Lingfield, Chair of the Chartered Institution for Further Education said:
“If the United Kingdom is to remain commercially competitive in a fast-changing world, it is essential that our acute current skills shortages are remedied. This report sets out exactly what focused support is needed from Government to enable the UK’s further education sector to supply experienced professionals to teach the next generation of students the skills that are so seriously needed.”
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