Portsmouth councillor speaks out over teacher shortage crisis

Portsmouth Cabinet Member for Education Cllr Suzy Horton
Portsmouth Cabinet Member for Education Cllr Suzy Horton

Concerns have been raised about the impact of unnecessary work on teachers in Portsmouth.  

Speaking at the Liberal Democrats Party Conference, Portsmouth’s Cabinet Member for Education, Suzy Horton, highlighted the impact of bureaucracy, workload and suffocating levels of accountability as the key reasons behind the current teacher shortage both nationally and within the city.

‘The current focus is obviously on accountability, measuring, assessing, comparing and competition which can devalue certain subjects. This adds to the workloads of already hard working teachers as they master double planning – planning the actual teaching and planning the evidence that the teaching was done.’

The speech follows on from Portsmouth Local Authority recently launching a targeted campaign to deal with the current teaching shortage in the city. 

Speaking about the situation deputy director for children’s services, Mike Stoneman, said: ‘The information we are getting from headteachers, and I have seen it myself through my involvement in leadership roles, is we do have a big issue in the city. All schools are reporting recruitment issues, particularly in certain subjects such as maths, science and modern foreign languages.’
In addition to the diminishing pool of already qualified teachers there has been a regional 10 percent reduction in the number of trainees enrolling on teacher training courses  

It is the removal of administrative tasks of little educational value which has been at the forefront one of the city’s most significant education success stories.

In 2011 St Edmund’s Catholic School was judged as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted but is now the city’s best performing state school and in the top two per cent of schools nationally.

‘When I came in I stripped away a lot of the monitoring and paperwork. At that time we were completing tracking data every six weeks which was totally unnecessary,’ explained head teacher Simon Graham.

Councillor Horton believes the emphasis placed on onerous tasks of accountability are contributing the current procession of people leaving the profession.

‘There is a difference between doing what you do through professional pride and ploughing through tasks that lack use or meaning,’ stressed Councillor Horton.

‘No wonder teachers are exhausted both physically and mentally. Doing pointless work, doing wasted work, doing double work. No wonder teachers are stressed as they tackle this extra work whilst dealing with the emotions of frustration and disempowerment,’ she added.

The situation of recruitment and retainment in Portsmouth looks set to be compounded by increasing school cohorts. 

‘Over the last five years our primary numbers have increased significantly and our secondary population is starting to grow as the ‘primary bulge’ pushes through. We have the perfect storm developing with rising numbers of students and a situation where we need more teachers than ever before. Yet at the same time we have this growing issue of recruitment and retainment,’ explained Mr Stoneman.

‘For the second year running I am talking about teacher recruitment and retainment which probably indicates what an emergency situation the teacher shortage crisis still is. This is a crisis which simply can’t be ignored,’ said Councillor Horton.

Highlighted in her speech was the need to remove the burden of unnecessary time consuming tasks and instead focus on why people enter the profession in the first place – ‘to help others develop and change society through sharing their passion for their subject.’ 

To help improve the public perception of the profession and to attract more teachers Councillor Horton and the local authority have launched ‘Teach Portsmouth Week’ which will take place between the 1st and 5th of October.

‘We need to raise the profile of teaching in the city and celebrate some of the outstanding teachers we have. They need to be recognised,’ said Mr Stoneman.