Below is a letter sent to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Wiliamson on 20th September 2020 regarding the concerns of the CfSA members and the help the CfSA is offering.
The response from the DfE and from Minister of State for School Standards, Nick Gibb, can be found underneath.
To The Rt. Hon Gavin Williamson, MP
Secretary of State for Education
House of Commons
25th September 2020.
Dear Secretary of State
RE: Workforce issues
I am writing to you as Chair of the Council for the Subject Associations to share a number of key messages with you and the department concerning the picture we are seeing from our membership of thousands of teachers and to offer the CfSA’s help.
There is a huge amount of excellent work being done by our school leaders and teachers and it is good that you are acknowledging this. Please continue to do so.
• Teachers are feeling tired, low in confidence and massively under pressure. Some are being asked to rewrite syllabus for blended learning at very short notice. The health and well-being of teachers needs to be a priority to enable better retention in the profession.
• There are worries about a broad and balanced curriculum, specifically that some schools seem not to be offering this, despite DfE guidance to do so. Can DfE promote this more strongly, including the importance of fully reinstating extra-curricular offers for the health and mental well-being of pupils? Can Ofsted look at this as a priority in their support visits? Managing health and well-being needs to be a whole school policy that influences all subjects and extra-curricular activities.
• The provision of practical lessons is particularly challenging for schools at this time and this is likely to have a stronger impact on certain subjects. This is something for consideration when looking at curriculum, Ofsted/HMI support and examinations. For example: https://www.ase.org.uk/news/new-ase-report-highlights-concerns-over-practical-science-post-lockdown
• Newly qualified teachers need extra support, as their training was interrupted by lockdown. Can DfE offer support for them? This will be an issue for current Initial Teacher Training (ITT) cohorts too, as they go forward. There is a risk that retention rates of new teachers will fall further otherwise. Schools need additional financial and other support to offer high quality mentoring to address this.
• ITT students in subjects and in primary are sometimes struggling to train and manage jobs alongside, where no training bursaries are offered to support them financially. Can the bursary system be reviewed for greater equity across subjects and phases?
• There is currently a lack of clarity about the timing and scope of examinations, and about the role of teacher assessment. Can DfE and Ofqual share guidance as soon as possible, please? Teachers are unable to plan efficiently without this information.
• DfE should carefully monitor numbers of technicians, TAs and other support roles in schools, as there are reports of such roles being reduced significantly. This could result in a negative impact on pupil learning.
Subject Associations are offering support networks to teachers that can help with all these issues. CfSA contacted you quickly, to offer support for on line learning at the start of the COVID-19 crisis https://www.subjectassociations.org.uk/cfsa-response-to-covid-19/ and our Subject associations all continuing to support their membership. They are also very willing to work with DfE on developing further support and guidance, as they have done in the past.
Chair of CfSA.