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Catching up after school closure: the need for cognitive stimulation

It is now clear that most pupils won’t return to school until September, so will have lost 4 months’ schooling – two-fifths of a school year. Even if schools return to more or less normal operation and there are no further spikes of infection, both of which are uncertain, this is a considerable loss of learning. There is also mounting evidence that the education of disadvantaged children is suffering much worse than that of others. The EEF is concerned that these children’s recent progress could be reversed as a direct result of Covid-19 school closures.
https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/news/eef-publishes-new-review-of-evidence-on-remote-learning/

At the worst we may be approaching a situation comparable to Israel in the 1950s and 60s where Jewish immigrant children from North Africa and the Middle East were typically three years behind those from Europe and North America in their education. Reuven Feuerstein and his co-workers developed a programme which enabled these children to catch up so completely that, by their entry into compulsory military service (for both sexes, of course), they performed as well if not better than others. This experience may be relevant in the Covid-19 crisis.

Loss of learning during closure

Research by the Sutton Trust in the second week of school closure found that it had very different impact in relation to pupils’ social class – https://www.suttontrust.com/our-research/covid-19-and-social-mobility-impact-brief/ The survey found that, at independent schools, 51 per cent of primary pupils and 57 per cent of secondary pupils accessed online lessons every day compared with 30 per cent of middle class pupils and 16 per cent of working class pupils in state schools.

These inequalities in school provision and the home environment affected the quantity and quality of work produced by pupils.  50% of teachers in independent schools reported they were receiving more than three quarters of work back. This compared with 27% in the most advantaged state schools and only 8% in the least advantaged state schools.

These findings have been confirmed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in its report published on 18th May – https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14848 The survey found that higher income parents are much more likely than the less well-off to report that their child’s school provides online classes and access to online videoconferencing with teachers. Parents of 64% of secondary pupils in state schools from the richest households report being offered active help from schools, such as online teaching, compared with 47% from the poorest fifth of families. 82% of secondary school pupils attending private school are offered active help, with 79% being provided with online classes.

The IFS also found that children from better-off families are spending 30% more time on home learning than are those from poorer families and that better-off students have access to more resources for home learning. More than half (58%) of primary school students from the least well-off families do not have access to their own study space.

Both the Sutton Trust and the IFS report similar causes for the social differences. Pupils from better-off families have a better home set-up for distance learning and their parents are more able to support them. Pupils from poorer families are less likely to have suitable equipment (a Government scheme for providing laptops for these children isn’t due to begin until June) or adults who can support their learning.

The IFS also reports “higher-income parents report being more willing for their child to go back to school. This risks a situation where the children struggling the most to cope with home learning remain at home while their better-off classmates are back in the classroom.”

This situation risks both increasing the number of disadvantaged pupils and entrenching disadvantage in those already experiencing difficulties.

Difficulties of catching up

There has been tentative discussion of catch-up classes in schools during the summer holiday, but these would present problems of staff costs and securing attendance by pupils most in need of the classes.

Even if school life returns to normal in September, the situation will be unprecedented in that staff will need to teach the school’s 2020/21 curriculum and, at the same time, the last term of the 2019/20 curriculum which has been covered very variably both by what schools have been able to offer online and by individual pupils’ participation.

In practice, in September schools will need to assess their pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the 2019/20 curriculum as a baseline for catch-up. Inevitably pupils who have participated less in online work during closure will perform less well and the assessment will necessarily lead to differentiated catch-up work with pupils grouped according to perceived attainment in the assessment.

In secondary schools with setting, the groups will probably reflect existing attainment groups quite closely. In primary schools and secondary schools with mixed-attainment teaching, there will be pressure to create separate attainment groups for catch-up purposes. The self-fulfilling prophecies of attainment grouping will then take effect with perceived lower attaining groups taught a more limited curriculum at a slower pace.

The likely effect of this is that, without targeted intervention, pupils who participated less well in online teaching during closure will be permanently disadvantaged. They will probably be relatively poor learners who were making good or reasonable progress through regular full-time schooling which has been seriously disrupted. If phased, part-time or online learning have to be introduced in September or reintroduced for safety reasons because of future infection spikes, their education will be further disrupted with damaging results. In effect, disadvantage will be entrenched for these pupils.

Public tests and examinations

The primary school tests (Early Years, phonics, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2) and secondary phase examinations (chiefly GCSE and A Level) have been suspended for 2020 and, in most cases, will be replaced with teacher-assessed results, moderated against previous years’ outcomes by the Standards and Testing Authority and Ofqual. For catch-up purposes, it will be highly relevant whether they are set in 2021 and, if so, to what standard.

It’s worth distinguishing between the functions of the primary tests and the secondary examinations. The primary tests’ chief function is school accountability – no child’s future depends on the outcome of any of the tests. There is also no element of international comparability; England is the only country to use such a battery of primary tests on a national basis with results of the Key Stage tests published.

There would therefore be no disadvantage to pupils in setting the primary tests in 2021 at the same standard as in 2019. It would be accepted that, overall, pupils will perform less well than in 2019 and this could be a useful measure of the loss of learning caused by Covid-19.

GCSEs and A Levels are also school accountability measures but, more important, they are measures of individual students’ learning which, for many, are gateways to further and higher education. There seem to be four possible ways forward:

(1) Abandon these examinations in 2021 and rely again on teacher assessment. This seems least likely unless there is an international agreement to do so – and this seems unlikely because many countries in Europe and the Far East have controlled Covid-19 better than Britain. If most, perhaps all, major advanced countries resume examinations in 2021 (including Ireland and perhaps the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), the UK Government is unlikely to abandon them again because this would admit publicly that England has harmed the education of its young people more than elsewhere.

(2) Agreement by the Examination Boards and Ofqual to reduce the content of the exam specifications to allow coverage in less time. But this would be highly complex and would operate unfairly in that schools don’t teach content in the same sequence, so some will already have taught material that is dropped.

(3) The exams are set at the same standard as 2019 but marked more leniently so that the proportions of grades in each subject are similar to 2018 and 2019. The differences in mark ranges would need to be published to provide transparency and Progress 8 would need to be abandoned for 2021, but these are technical matters. The disadvantages would be that 2021 would be known indefinitely as ‘the easy year’ with grades worth less than in other years; comparability of standards between years would be interrupted; and a complex decision would be needed on how quickly to return to 2019 standards in examinations after 2021.

(4) The exams are set and marked at the same standard as in 2019. This would provide an objective measure of the loss of learning in Key Stages 4 and 5, but would allow accurate year-on-year comparability of standards, avoiding the need for a decision on how quickly to return to 2019 standards in examinations after 2021. Universities and colleges would need to adjust their entry requirements but, in fact, with the likely loss foreign students and a report that 20 per cent of students intend to defer university entry for at least a year – https://londoneconomics.co.uk/blog/publication/impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-university-deferral-rates-and-student-switching-may-2020/ – entry requirements are likely to be lowered in any case.

For catching up after closure, it would be prudent for primary schools to assume that the tests will be set in 2021 at the same standard as in 2019 and for secondary schools to plan for (3) or (4), with (4) perhaps the more likely. Catching up after closure will need to be approached in this context.

How can we prevent permanent disadvantage?

Reopening schools in September with a large proportion of significantly disadvantaged children is reminiscent of the situation faced by the new State of Israel in the 1950s and 60s. Under its ‘law of return’ Israel welcomed large numbers of Jewish immigrants, but found that the children of those from North Africa and the Middle East did much worse in school than those from Europe and North America. They were typically three years behind in their education and were subsequently much less successful as young adults competing for jobs.

Israel was committed to educational equality for its immigrants and invested heavily in research on remediation. Reuven Feuerstein led a substantial team of clinical and educational psychologists, many with experience of treating children traumatised by the Holocaust, to tackle this problem. They decided to avoid school subjects as areas of past failure and devised a separate programme called Instrumental Enrichment (IE). This was designed to change, over a period of two or more years, the disadvantaged students’ concept of themselves as learners, their motivation and their ability to process information.

The IE course was primarily designed for young adolescents. It consisted of thirteen sequences, each with 12 to 24 activities (instruments), intended to be taught for five hours per week over two years in parallel with the normal curriculum. An essential feature of the IE instruments is that they involve little use of language and therefore have the appearance of logic puzzles and non-verbal reasoning problems – see e.g. http://www.faculty.umb.edu/peter_taylor/601/files/FIE%20Standard%20Sample%20iRi%205-19-13%2C%20complete.pdf The reason for this is that the pupils’ mother tongue was usually Arabic and they were simultaneously having to learn Modern Hebrew (Ivrit) as the language of their new country (Feuerstein et al 1980).

Each activity was delivered in three phases – input, elaboration and output – each involving discussion designed to develop pupils’ awareness of themselves as learners:

the different cognitive functions appearing in the input, elaboration – or problem solving – and output phases become part of the everyday metacognitive discussion between teacher and student and between student and student when thinking about their own strategies of problem solving … IE aims to provide the necessary mental tools putting students in a position where they have to construct for themselves the higher level thinking required. This could be described as meta-constructivism – the construction by the learner of learning strategies (Adey and Shayer 1994).

The programme was rigorously evaluated with controlled trials and found to be effective. More significantly, two years after the intervention the students entered compulsory military training in the Israeli Army. On a test of general intelligence for all recruits derived from the American Army Alpha test, the IE group performed better than many others. Although they had typically been three years behind when entering school, they were now equal with others, for example, in promotion prospects.

Feuerstein’s IE was also used in the early 1980s by Mervyn Mehl who taught first-year Physics to medical students at the University of the Western Cape, at that time a wholly black university under apartheid. Owing to under-resourced education in black high schools, 50 per cent of first-year medical students regularly dropped out through failing their Physics course. Mehl devised an IE course closely modelled on Feuerstein’s work but designed to be delivered in one year. At the end of the year the failure rate was reduced to zero. There was a convenient control in that about half the students were taught in Afrikaans and half in English. IE was used with the English-medium students only; the failure rate for the Afrikaans-medium students remained unchanged (Mehl 1985; Adey and Shayer 1994).

As Mehl demonstrated, IE can be effective over a shorter period. A crucial difference was language. Mehl’s students had been taught in English-medium high schools, so were not having simultaneously to learn a new language as in Israel.

Feuerstein’s IE was highly successful for the purpose for which it was developed – raising the attainment of large numbers of educationally disadvantaged learners. A significant feature of the programme was that, although it generally didn’t raise attainment immediately, evidently because of difficulties of accessing the mainstream curriculum while learning a new language, IE learners’ ability continued to develop after their participation in the programme had ended. Their ability continued to rise on all the tests they took, including Army Entrance and for further and higher education so that, as adults, they suffered no disadvantage compared with the general population (Rand et al 1981). The work of Feuerstein and his colleagues is permanent evidence of what can be achieved by government commitment to raising the attainment of disadvantaged learners.

IE’s limitations and its successor

IE has been used experimentally in settings in the USA, UK and elsewhere with positive effects on attainment, but hasn’t been adopted widely. This is partly because it is seen as a remediation programme intended for a minority of pupils and partly because of its deliberate separation from school subjects. Schools and education systems have been reluctant to devote significant resources to a programme apparently relevant only to disadvantaged pupils and without direct relevance to the rest of the curriculum.

These issues were addressed by Adey and Shayer in the 1980s. Michael Shayer was one of the leaders of the Concepts in Secondary Mathematics and Science project (1974 – 1980), a large-scale government-funded project on how to improve the teaching of these subjects across the whole ability range in comprehensive schools. Shayer investigated IE closely and, with Philip Adey, developed a new programme which overcame its limitations; they called it Cognitive Acceleration (CA). Like IE, CA was based on research by Vygotsky and Piaget – it trained learners how to understand their own cognitive (thinking) processes and use them more effectively. Unlike IE, CA related directly to school subjects and, not being designed for immigrant children learning a new language, used open questions in English rather than diagrammatic problems.

In essence Adey and Shayer took the ten cognitive schemas underlying scientific understanding identified by Inhelder and Piaget (proportionality, compensation, variables, etc) and devised 30 lessons to help pupils to develop these schemas. The lessons were all designed on the same pattern involving five ‘pillars’: concrete preparation, social construction, cognitive conflict, metacognition and bridging.

The programme – Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) – proved very successful in the 1980s to 2000s before being squeezed out of schools’ curriculums by Ofsted’s requirement of frequent assessment for progress tracking. CASE typically raised attainment by 1 to 2 GCSE grades across the full ability range (https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/evidence-of-success/adey/ ; Adey and Shayer 1994; Shayer and Adey 2002). This effect has been confirmed in more than 20 international trials – https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/LTIS_efficacy.pdf CA programmes in Mathematics and English have subsequently been developed, also with full suites of lessons for primary and secondary schools – https://www.letsthink.org.uk/ ; https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/ – together with KS3 lessons in Drama, Music and Visual Art (Alty and Pout 2006; Evans et al 2006; Leighton and Quinn 2006).

The English CA programme (Let’s Think in English) has become particularly successful and is currently used by some 350 schools in England and Wales as well as in Switzerland, Poland, Brazil, Hong Kong and Vietnam. It has some 20 age-appropriate lessons for each of Years 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6 together with 30+ for K3 and 20+ for GCSE, each using fiction, non-fiction, poetry or film. Samples of the English lessons are available at https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/sample-lessons/

Catching up after lockdown

Cognitive Acceleration (CA) would be particularly helpful in catching up after closure for three reasons

• CA raises attainment by all pupils but especially of the disadvantaged. As Feuerstein showed, intensive systematic focus on improving pupils’ cognitive abilities has long-term effects on their attainment. But CA lessons are designed to be used with whole classes rather than smaller groups of pupils with special needs. In this way all pupils’ abilities rise, but disadvantaged pupils make the greatest progress.

In six schools in Hampshire, each with two KS3 CA classes, all the students made an average of 41.5 per cent greater progress than two parallel non-CA classes, but the pupils on Free School Meals in these classes made 58.3 per cent greater progress – https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/evidence-of-success/ An International School in Switzerland used the Australian Council for Educational Research tests (similar to the PISA tests) with Year 6 before and after a year’s use of Let’s Think in English, with these gains (effect sizes):

  Mathematical Literacy Reading Narrative Writing Expository Writing
All pupils 0.27 0.30 0.12 0.42
Least able quartile 0.61 0.42 0.46 0.67

Again, the least able achieved the greatest gains, though the overall results compared to the performance on the same tests by the top 14 International Baccalaureate schools – https://www.abceducation.ch/blog/2018/03/30/effects-of-a-one-year-lets-think-in-english-intervention-in-an-international-school/

• CA lessons are designed to be used fortnightly – 30 lessons over two years. This is helpful when schools have a great deal of other work to cover. Nothing is gained by using the lessons more frequently and, in fact, the gap between them provides opportunities for metacognition. Some schools using the English programme have a ‘metacog wall’ in the classroom – a large sheet of sugar paper on which pupils are welcome to put comments or queries about the CA lesson on post-it notes in the two weeks following the lesson. After the early lessons there are few notes, but in a while there are many, providing the focus for discussion before the next CA lesson.

• Professional development and quality assurance. Teachers need guidance and practice in delivering lessons of this kind and the CA programmes provide this. For example, Let’s Think in English (LTE) provides initial training and three subsequent support visits – https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/training-and-support/ The LTE lessons are free but, to ensure effective delivery, are only available with the training and support package. This costs less than three pupil premiums and the cost can be shared between several schools if they are trained and supported together.

It is hoped that a reconsideration of Feuerstein’s response to systemic educational disadvantage and Cognitive Acceleration as its successor will be helpful in this current unprecedented situation.

26th May 2020

References

Adey, P., Shayer, M. and Yates, C (1989) – Thinking Science: Student and Teachers’ materials for the CASE intervention. London: Macmillan

Adey, P and Shayer, M (1994) – Really Raising Standards: Cognitive intervention and academic achievement. London: Routledge.

Alty, S and Pout, L (2006) – Think ahead! developing thinking through drama 11 – 14. London: GL Assessment.

Evans, W, Petrie, J and McLoughlin, H (2006) – Think ahead! developing thinking through music 11 – 14. London: GL Assessment.

Feuerstein, R, Rand, Y, Hoffman, M and Miller, M (1980) – Instrumental Enrichment: Intervention Programme for Cognitive Modifiability. Baltimore: University Park Press.

Johnson, D, Adhami, M, Shayer, M, Hodgen, J, Hafeez, R and Dubben, S (2002) – Primary CAME Thinking Maths : the lessons for the primary cognitive acceleration in mathematics education (CAME) project in Year 5 and Year 6. London : Nelson Thornes.

Leighton, N and Quinn, A-M (2006) – Think ahead! developing thinking through visual arts 11 – 14. London: GL Assessment.

Mehl, M (1985) – The cognitive difficulties of first year physics students at the University of the Western Cape and various compensatory programmes. PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.

Rand, Y, Mintzker, R, Hoffman, M B and Friedlander, Y (1981) – The Instrumental Enrichment programme: immediate and long-term effects. In Mittler, P (ed) Frontiers of Knowledge: Mental Retardation, Vol 1. Baltimore: University Park Press.

Robertson, A and Adey, P (2004) – Let’s Think through Science! 8 & 9. London: GL Assessment.

Shayer, M and Adey, P (eds) (2002) – Learning Intelligence: Cognitive Acceleration Across the Curriculum 5 to 15 years. Buckingham: Open University Press.

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Powerlessness, not workload: is this why secondary, but not primary, teachers are leaving teaching?

The secondary teaching crisis

On 27thJune 2019 the Education Policy Institute published this chart derived from DfE school workforce figures:

https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/analysis-three-charts-that-explain-the-secondary-teaching-crisis/

To be clear: the fall in number of secondary teachers doesn’t reflect a fall in the number of secondary students. According to DfE figures, the number of secondary students in England’s schools fell from 2010 to 2014, then rose by 2018 to a similar number as in 2010. The number of primary pupils rose throughout the whole period.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719226/Schools_Pupils_and_their_Characteristics_2018_Main_Text.pdf [PDF document]

There is clearly a crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers in secondary schools – the number of teachers is falling while the number of students is rising.

This seems to be the first time that the different resignation rates of primary and secondary teachers have been made clear. Strangely, no-one seems to have pointed this out before. All the analyses of why teachers leave teaching treat primary and secondary together, yet clearly the experience of the two sectors is very different.

Is excessive workload the cause?

The most common reason given for teachers leaving is excessive workload, but another recent study shows this isn’t so. In September 2019 the UCL Institute of Education published the longest ever study of teachers’ working hours, from 1992 to 2018, and found that their hours haven’t significantly changed in 25 years:
Working hours trends graph
https://johnjerrim.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/working_paper_teacher_hours.pdf [PDF document]

Secondary teachers’ hours of work are, if anything, slightly less than primary teachers’ and this hasn’t changed for 25 years. Yet secondary teachers are currently leaving the profession in droves while primary teachers are staying.

These two charts explode two common myths. The first is the teacher unions’ belief that teachers are leaving the profession because of excessive workload. This is obviously untrue when hours of work have remained largely unchanged for 25 years and primary teachers, though working longer hours, are increasing in numbers. The second is that teachers entering the profession these days will no longer accept such long hours. Again, the charts, taken together, show that this is untrue – primary teachers, though working longer, stay. The causes of the secondary teachers’ exodus must lie elsewhere.

Is pupil behaviour to blame?

One possibility is that secondary teachers find adolescents harder to manage. After all, younger children are mostly obedient while adolescents often test the boundaries of what is acceptable. But there is no evidence that this is a major feature of most teachers leaving the profession.

In 2017 the DfE completed an analysis of the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) findings in 2013 on teacher retention and reported that the most significant factors in teachers’ job satisfaction are (in descending order):

  • supportive leadership
  • effective professional development
  • teacher cooperation
  • scope for career progression
  • feeling sufficiently prepared for teaching.

Admittedly the analysis didn’t distinguish between primary and secondary teachers, but pupil behaviour scarcely registered.
https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/30448/1/TALIS_2013_Evidence_on_Working_Conditions_Teacher_Job_Satisfaction_and_Retention_Nov_2017.pdf [PDF document]

This is supported by a DfE in 2017 study of teachers’ reasons for leaving the profession the previous year.
Reasons for leaving teaching chart

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/workload-and-government-policy-forcing-teachers-out-dfe-research-finds/

Pupil behaviour comes eighth, far behind other factors.

The problem with surveys like this is that they rely on teachers ticking boxes for the reasons they are leaving, not on in-depth interviews, and it’s clear that some of these are proxies for other dissatisfactions. As we have seen, workload (given first) hasn’t changed in 25 years and Government policies and Ofsted (2nd and 4th) affect primary schools just as much as secondary ones.

To find the real reasons why secondary teachers are leaving while primary teachers aren’t, we need to explore two of the other factors rated strongly in Figure 4.1: feeling undervalued (3rd) and lack of support (5th). This ties in with the DfE TALIS analysis mentioned above which found that, for teachers’ job satisfaction, the quality of interpersonal relations and sense of personal autonomy within a school outweigh all other considerations including workload and challenging circumstances.

Primary and secondary experience

There has been no formal investigation of why secondary teachers, but not primary teachers, are leaving in greater numbers, but the following differences are evident.
In primary schools:

  • teachers teach almost the whole curriculum to a single class which they come to know very well
  • classes are usually mixed-attainment so teachers develop expertise in simultaneously teaching children of all abilities; this requires a child-centred approach responding to the varied needs of each of the children
  • teachers therefore become experts in their class’s learning at individual pupil level; they are the ‘go to’ person for any issues relating to one of their pupils
  • to teach the whole curriculum, co-planning with colleagues is the norm
  • as schools are small, the SLT are usually physically nearby and professionally supportive.

The typical pattern in primary schools is that teachers are both autonomous as experts in their class’s learning and used to close cooperation with colleagues in planning varied lessons across the whole curriculum.

In secondary schools:

  • teachers usually teach a single subject to a range of classes
  • classes are often setted by prior attainment in English and/or Maths
  • as a subject specialist, the teacher is responsible for their pupils’ attainment in that subject
  • however, although they are subject specialists, teachers may not be able to teach according to their preferred pedagogical style; they may be expected to deliver a particular model of teaching and learning by their Subject Lead, SLT or MAT adviser (the last two not necessarily specialists in their subject)
  • in these circumstances, co-planning is more likely to be unavailable; as subject specialists, teachers are expected to be able deliver the specified material in the required way
  • in large schools, teachers may be chiefly confined to departmental bases with limited personal contact otherwise; SLT members may be physically remote and mostly encountered in an administrative or judgemental role
  • some secondary academies are run on a business-orientated model which teachers, who usually enter teaching to help young people grow intellectually and personally, may find uncongenial.

Secondary teachers are therefore more likely to feel unsupported and professionally undervalued – though subject specialists, they may not be regarded as experts in their students’ learning, but rather chiefly as deliverers of lessons designed by others. The EPI report cited first in this blog also tracks the resignation rates of graduate NQTs with 10 per cent leaving in the first year, a further 10 per cent in the second and a continuing steep slope thereafter. Put briefly, young secondary teachers seem often to find themselves in a high-demand profession in which they have great responsibility but in which, in professional matters, they are powerless. They find this intolerable and leave, either for a school which allows greater autonomy and professional self-worth or for other work.

The pressure of preparing pupils for public examinations is clearly a factor. In primary schools, teachers prepare pupils for low-stakes tests in phonics and Key Stage 1 English and Maths. The high-stakes Key Stage 2 tests are the responsibility of Year 6 teachers who are either highly experienced or, if not, are strongly supported by SLT and colleagues. It is also the case that, while the KS2 tests are important for school accountability, parents have less interest in the results than GCSE because their child’s future doesn’t depend on them in any way.

In secondary schools GCSE results are seen as important by pupils and their parents and by the school as vital for reputation and recruitment. Many schools therefore have detailed assessment systems for tracking students’ progress in relation to GCSE even from Year 7. This in turn puts pressure on teachers constantly to demonstrate student progress.

Further, the current search for evidence-based methods of raising attainment may lead to a range of relatively mechanistic approaches recommended or required by department, SLT or MAT: repetition/re-presenting of material (up to 85 per cent of a lesson); knowledge organisers; interleaving; quizzes; and low-stakes multiple-choice tests. A teacher who enters teaching for the satisfaction of helping young minds to grow may find such an emphasis too functionalist and emotionally unsatisfying.

It would need further research, but it seems at least possible that some schools’ requirement of a particular kind of pedagogy which some teachers find impersonal and overprescriptive may contribute strongly to their decision to leave the school or even the profession. It may be at this point that long working hours, which are otherwise acceptable, become less so. Without the satisfactions of teaching according to one’s own personally preferred style, workload may be felt as a problem.

What should be done?

Certainly something other than workload is causing increasing numbers of secondary, but not primary, teachers to leave the profession and the DfE needs to investigate this. So far, the DfE has commissioned various investigations into teacher workload and made various well-meaning recommendations for reducing it which have had no effect. If the flow of secondary teachers leaving the profession is to be stopped and hopefully reversed, something else needs to be done.

An immediately helpful development would be for Ofsted to include teacher turnover in its inspection reports. The OECD, Education Policy Institute and DfE are all clear that high staff turnover harms the quality of education in a school and parents presumably have a right to this information as potentially affecting their child’s education. Where turnover is high, Ofsted should take a view on the causes and include this in its report and, if appropriate, grading.

In the longer term, the DfE should commission independent research on the deeper reasons why teachers leave high-turnover schools, using confidential exit interviews by independent researchers. This would be more accurate than using questionnaires which, unless they are very carefully designed, may enable teachers to avoid giving the true reasons for their leaving.

It may be that that a requirement to deliver a particular pedagogy may be found unsatisfying and unacceptable and/or that the school’s leadership style is felt as abrasive or even repressive. In either case, a sense of powerlessness may be the deciding factor in teachers’ decision to leave. Until this is investigated, the haemorrhage of secondary teachers is likely to continue.

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