Three things the next government needs to do to make our schools better for teachers and pupils

Geraint Jones in a suit, shrit and tie say on a yellow sofa

Geraint Jones, Executive Director, Associate-Pro-Vice-Chancellor and founder of NITE

University news

Monday 01 July 2024

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Executive Director, Associate-Pro-Vice-Chancellor and founder of the National Institute of Teaching and Education (NITE), Professor Geraint Jones, shares his thoughts on how the next government can go about improving schools for teachers and pupils.

The rationale behind improving schools should require no introduction. At their heart schools are a foundation of knowledge, ensuring young people are prepared for future challenges and opportunities. They are that and so much more.

Schools are integral to social development, encouraging young people to try new things and be innovative while also bridging the gap between different socioeconomic groups and promoting social mobility and fairness. They are at the forefront of economic growth, delivering the knowledge and experience a skilled workforce requires for the jobs of the future.

Delivering this vital work are those who stand at the front of the classroom every day and shape the minds of tomorrow. In the UK we are lucky to boast some of the best teachers and students in the world. However, after years of decline, our schools and our education system must improve quickly under the next government to ensure that we do not begin to lag behind our peers.

Recruiting and retaining

We are currently asking far too much of our teachers and must seek solutions to decrease their contact time in front of classes. This starts with recruiting more teachers, but we can and must go further. Teachers are burning out and the expectation to teach for 22-23 hours per week is simply too much. When you factor in planning, marking, extracurricular activities, paperwork and pastoral responsibilities, is it any wonder that so many of our teachers are exhausted?

We have to make the job more appealing, so more people are encouraged to teach and fewer wish to leave the profession. Yes, we need more teachers, but we must also support those we already have. The next government can start by providing them with better training, resources and working conditions to help them perform their jobs more effectively and with greater satisfaction.

Radically improving the training, resources and authority given to schools and teachers in managing pupil behaviour is also a must. Since reopening after lockdown, schools are facing an uphill battle as they struggle to deal with extreme pupil behaviour.

We need higher expectations of behaviour in schools, support for school leaders to be allowed to tackle it through appropriate sanctions of both pupils and parents, and better training to build an understanding of why pupils are behaving so badly. Teachers are already leaving in their droves and if the next government does not act to ensure schools are supportive and well managed then more will surely follow.

Money is a must

Finally, schools are strapped for cash. Teacher pay remains low, with very little money for adequate professional development, and school facilities continue to fail across the country.

Until we raise the profile of the profession by funding teachers and schools as they should be, then it will remain a ‘third choice’ occupation for graduates. Strategic financial management and long-term planning are therefore critical. The new government must explore ways to increase the capital budget for schools to future-proof infrastructure and could introduce policies or incentives to support institutions to ensure they remain safe and adequately funded.

Schools are foundational to the development of individuals and society but, in the current climate, it can sometimes feel like this has been forgotten. Whatever their political persuasion, the next government must deliver solutions to these challenges to guarantee the future success of schools in the UK.

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