Subject division and policies that will break the talent pipeline

In response to the Government's announcement of £300 million to attract and develop 'world-class teachers and leaders', Michele Gregson explains how this policy is inequitable and will further break the talent pipeline.

It is disappointing that the announcement today of over £300 million to attract and develop 'world-class teachers and leaders' once again does not include the provision of bursaries for graduates applying to train as art and design teachers, whilst those training in supposedly high-demand subjects will receive thousands of pounds in tax-free cash bursaries. Additional in-service incentives for teachers of maths, physics, chemistry and computing underline the deep inequity in support for our trainee teachers. 

The UK Government's 'supply and demand' approach to recruitment and retention is riddled with inconsistencies and is based on the flawed premise that bursaries are an effective response to teacher shortages in specific subjects. Creating a multi-layered hierarchy of curriculum subjects has done little to solve recruitment problems in subjects such as Modern Foreign Languages, where recruitment remains stubbornly low, despite generous incentives. It only serves to devalue those subjects who do not receive a bursary - regardless of whether they fail to recruit the required number of trainees in any given year. NSEAD believes that equal bursaries should be available to all trainee teachers - we need to invest in the whole curriculum, not just sections of it.

Furthermore, apportioning bursaries by a hierarchy of subjects does little to improve diversity in the profession and especially so in art and design education. How we ask, is the government going to address the pressing need for greater representation if its policies are ever more driven by subject hierarchy and not by people? If the Government really wants to develop world-class teachers and leaders, the government must focus on equity.

The truth is that this approach to recruitment and retention is driven by assumptions based on the UK Government's expectation that the ever-shifting targets for EBacc subjects will be reached in the next two years. We call for the new Secretary of State for Education to break this decade long attachment to the failed EBacc policy. Sacrificing student choice and undermining economic growth cannot be justified in the name of a misguided and damaging policy.

Now more than ever, Government must start to recognise the part that arts education (and art and design in particular) in the growing field of CreaTech, and invest in training for teachers in those subjects where creativity and technology meet. It is time to stop draining the pipeline to the future.

Michele Gregson

NSEAD General Secretary