Schools staffing crisis

This morning’s TES came with no fewer than three heavy job supplements. The staffing crisis is now so bad that the Secondary Heads Association has had to issue an edict against schools poaching each others’ best teachers.

Costs are going through the roof

  • the TES is making a mint out of all this advertising, all money that’s now not going to pay for teachers
  • top teachers can now write their own paychecks. I’d argue that’s a good thing as it encourages the best to stay in the profession, but again it costs…
  • where positions are going unfilled, expensive and ineffective agency supply teachers are being used instead.

It’s in dealing with this last problem that there’s a huge opportunity for elearning systems to prove their worth. Supply teachers are primarily used to provide short-term sickness cover. They don’t know the class and are frequently not familiar with the course being taught. No matter how good they are as teachers, with those disadvantages they cannot deliver good value. Frequently, they spend only a little time teaching and a lot of time simply trying to keep the class quiet.

If we separate the teaching from the classroom management, a new possibility emerges. Let a computer handle the content of the teaching. Because the content is relevant to the students’ courses, they will be more engaged by it. That makes the classroom management easier and allows you to combine two classes. What’s more, you can now use a classroom assistant instead of an agency supply teacher.

Under this scheme, we’ve replaced two supply teachers at £150 each with one classroom assistant at £100, thus reducing our costs by two-thirds. I saw this done successfully in a school in Milton Keynes two years ago, using an early MLE. Now we just have to get enough courseware written and we can roll this out nationwide.


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