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Best of both worlds: Estelle’s journey in a pioneering role - Jul 19

Author: e.ashman

July 2019
You must stick to your guns.

It is well known that there is a recruitment crisis in Education, the number of teachers quitting the profession after just 1 year is at a 20-year high (Morrison, 2019), but it is in Computing that there is a real crisis.

The Government has had a national focus on Computing since the 2014 National Curriculum reforms, but there was an almost 50% decline in students taking Computing related subjects at GCSE between 2017 and 2018 and the number of hours spent teaching Computing across KS3 – KS5 fell by 36% (Kemp and Berry, 2019). A 2016 report from Computing at School Scotland found that 17% of schools had no Computing specialist teacher and the number of dedicated Computing teachers fell by nearly 25% between 2008 and 2017 (McEnaney, 2019). While this report is focused on Scottish schools, a similar impact can be seen in schools across the UK (Kemp and Berry, 2019).

I have seen this decline first-hand; the multi-academy trust I worked for previously cut Computing from the KS3 curriculum and as a direct result ended up with no specialist Computing teachers remaining at the school to deliver GCSE courses. None of the Computing team wanted to teach other subjects in order to make up their timetabled hours and we understood the impact that cutting KS3 Computing would have on uptake at GCSE. The question is not whether there is a crisis, but how can we overcome it?

Earlier this month I read an interesting article  from the Times Education Supplement (TES) which stated that ‘offering teachers the kind of flexible working that other professions take for granted could make a real difference in terms of recruitment and retention’ (Gascoigne, 2019). Could flexible working be part of the solution in retaining and recruiting Computing teachers?

If you haven’t worked in Education, you may not realise that arranging the school timetable is a huge operation. One person - normally someone who also has lots of other responsibilities -must weave a myriad of people, students, classes and days together and somehow create the perfect timetable. There is NEVER a timetable that everyone is happy with, and sometimes NO-ONE is happy. Working outside of Education makes you realise how different it is.

In order for a hybrid role to work, businesses need to know your working days in advance; Digital Schoolhouse needed to know what days I would be working in September around 6 months in advance in order to start planning events, but schools haven’t even considered next year’s timetable that far in advance. It isn’t unheard of to receive your new timetable on the 1st of September, the first day of the new school year and sometimes that can still change. In one memorable year, the timetable had to be written two weeks into the school year as everyone was so unhappy with it! So, when I insisted that I needed to know what days I would be working in March I didn’t get far. Sorting out the days I would be working come September has probably been one of my biggest challenges so far. There have been a few occasions that I have had to stand my ground and remind the school of what they had agreed to. I don’t find this easy; I don’t like rocking the boat or disagreeing with people. Eventually after lots of badgering I had my days set – not the days that I was hoping for and we had originally agreed on - but set days none the less. The impact of this is that a few events (which had to have dates set despite not knowing what days I would be working) fall on days that I should be working in school so there will have to be some negotiation around them, but I am confident that we will be able to come to an agreement.

Thankfully I have a very supportive school that see benefits to them in me also working for Digital Schoolhouse. That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for improvement, clearly there is and if schools want to look at ways of tackling the recruitment crisis through hybrid working then they need to get better at being able to set working days in advance.

So, could flexible working be part of the solution to retaining and recruiting Computing teachers? In my opinion, yes. But schools have a long way to go in their ability to offer a truly flexible approach.

References 

Morrison, N., 2019 Number Of Teachers Quitting The Classroom After Just One Year Hits All-Time High. Forbes  [online] Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2019/06/27/number-of-teachers-quitting-the-classroom-after-just-one-year-hits-all-time-high/#3be15d5260e5> [Accessed on 16 July 2019]

Gascoigne, C., 2019 Why the teaching profession needs more flexibility. Times Education Supplement [online] Available at: https://www.tes.com/news/why-teaching-profession-needs-more-flexibility> [Accessed on 16 July 2019]

McEnaney, J., 2019 Teachers and students in decline: the computing ‘crisis’ in Scotland’s schools. The Ferret [online] Available at: https://theferret.scot/computing-science-schools-scotland/> [Accessed on 16 July 2019]

Kemp, P. and Berry, M., The Roehampton Annual Computing Education Report Pre-release snapshot from 2019 University of Roehampton London [online] Available at: https://www.bcs.org/more/bcs-academy-of-computing/the-roehampton-annual-computing-education-report/> [Accessed on 16 July 2019]

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