Success for Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT as two counties increase trainee teacher recruitment in face of national crisis

Geoff Robinson (Suffolk & Norfolk Initial Teacher Training Leader).

Geoff Robinson (Suffolk & Norfolk Initial Teacher Training Leader). - Credit: Gregg Brown

The number of people signing up to teacher training courses in Norfolk and Suffolk has reached a record high, despite a national teacher recruitment crisis, the latest government figures have revealed.

Suffolk County Council's Gordon Jones

Suffolk County Council's Gordon Jones - Credit: Archant

Statistics released by the Department for Education showed a 2% drop on the number of new teacher training sign-ups since last year nationwide, but at Suffolk and Norfolk School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), a staggering 9.6% increase has been seen this year on the 2015/16 academic year and a record-high 239 entrants for the two counties.

And the four main providers in north Essex have a combined 2.2% increase, which suggests the east is an attractive proposition for new trainees.

But why is Suffolk going against the national grain and proving that the recruitment crisis is not as all-consuming as it seems?

'I think there are a number of reasons why we have recruited strongly,' said Geoff Robinson, executive leader of Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT.

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'We have got a strong reputation in the local area and a strong recruitment drive we take all over the two counties.

'We have had a really comprehensive media coverage campaign and that all helps, but when you have done the analysis the strongest performance in terms of what really works for us is our website.'

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Mr Robinson suggests that online searches are bringing people to the Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT website, but it goes further than a good website and appealing adverts.

'Word of mouth has gone on,' he said. 'Lots of people often, when I ask in recruitment, say they were recommended by a friend or are working in a school which says why don't you think about it? We have got a good 250 local schools [we work with] so they add up.'

Suffolk County Council's children, families and learning department estimates that each year the county recruits around 300 newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) – with many of those coming from training schemes in Suffolk.

Crucially, the quality of trainee teachers coming out of its standard PGCE, salaried and assessment courses is high.

Mr Robinson said: 'We are delighted with that. When we are interviewing schools they say they have recruited two new trainees from last year and say they are fantastic because they know what the quality of them is. We have been given a really good allocation of places across all our programmes to recruit good numbers for 2017, so if your ceiling is high you will get more.'

For education bosses at Suffolk County Council, it is as much about signposting people into seriously considering a teaching career at an early opportunity.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: 'It's so important to keep generating new teacher training places locally to develop quality teachers.

'Recruiting teachers has been a key part of our Raising the Bar initiative, and we are thrilled to see that there has been an increase in the county in the number of trainee teachers.

'We want to continue to attract high-quality people to the profession. Our 'getting into teaching event' in September was attended by more than 100 people and was a good example of how we are connecting teaching schools and local teacher training providers with people who are interested in teaching as a career.'

Mr Robinson agrees, which is why Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT is increasingly targeting sixth-form students.

'What we say to them is while you are at university see if you can get involved in the school experience,' Mr Robinson said, adding that the earlier students consider it the more preparation they are likely to put in before enrolling on a course.

And that method in turn helps sow the seed of teaching in the minds of talented students – particularly in the difficult subjects for recruitment such as maths, physics, computing and modern foreign languages.

'We have actively been going to the universities all over to try and say to people they may not have thought about teaching but you have those skills,' Mr Robinson added.

But perhaps the hardest barrier for recruiting into the profession has been reports of teachers walking away from the career because of the long hours and amount of administrative work that is increasingly making educators feel like they are not actually teaching.

For 26-year-old St Helen's Primary School teacher Emma Garnham in Ipswich, who is two months into her first year as an NQT, it is a mindset that must not put off people who are passionate about teaching.

'Being a teacher is a work/life balance and there is a lot of paperwork, but to see the outcomes of that preparation, to see them interacting in a lesson, you can see that benefit in the class.

'It's really rewarding, especially when they come up to you and say 'that was a brilliant lesson'.'

Mr Robinson added: 'The truth is it is long hours and it is hard work but the most worthwhile jobs are.

'Within teaching you have the opportunity to be creative, no two days are the same, you get to meet great people and really make a difference.'

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