An analysis of the difficulties of recruiting and retaining teachers

Front cover of The Teacher Gap, grey cover, cyan lettering, and image of black tear

Source: Routledge

Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims
2018 | 156pp | £14.99 (PB)
ISBN 9781138730892

The teacher gap refers to three different but related gaps regarding teaching in England and Wales: the difference between the importance of teachers and how they are treated; the difference in the number of teachers needed and those we have; and the difference in the quality of the teachers we need and the quality we have.

The authors have drawn on a wide range of research evidence, both their own and from the literature. They clearly articulate the problems facing our teaching profession, and identify potential solutions.

Framed around a set of interviews with teachers who have recently left the profession, the book progresses through critical aspects including teacher development and expertise, motivation and retention, and workload. For example, an insightful comparison is made between doctor and teacher training. Doctors are trained gradually over many years, with progressively increasing expertise. By contrast, teacher training is front-loaded, and expertise generally plateaus at around three years.

To help us understand the demands of the teaching job, the authors use psychological theories. Unsurprisingly, underneath it all, teachers are little different to other people. When we are supported and trusted we flourish; when we are continually audited and undermined we leave the profession.

The most infuriating aspect is that many of the problems and potential solutions have been known for decades

The most infuriating aspect of reading this book is that many of the problems and potential solutions have been known for decades. Teachers need to feel competent, related to others and autonomous, and schools need to support teachers with high-quality, trust-based mentoring and coaching over their careers. Ultimately, teachers’ satisfaction in their careers and pupil achievement are highly correlated.

Each chapter concludes with suggestions that schools can implement now, without needing to wait for system-wide change from government and the regulators. Excellent schools exist and have continued to flourish in the current environment – the lessons from the research and experience can be learnt by others.

Overall, this is a well-written and timely book. It draws together the frustrations of a profession – a profession that wants to do more and wants to do better. But a profession that needs support, both from within schools and from those outside, to do its vital job: educating the next generation.

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