If you thought teachers were disappearing, try finding a youthworker

The BBC today ran this piece:

England’s schools face ‘severe’ teacher shortage

with the full text being found if you click the link. Some of the headlines include that

In poorer areas outside London, 17% of physics teachers have a relevant degree – compared with 52% in affluent areas in the rest of the country.

There are particular geographical cold spots, where schools are rated as least likely to have teachers in shortage subjects with a relevant degree:

  • Portsmouth
  • Hampshire
  • Newham
  • Barnsley
  • Doncaster

London and the south-east of England, and Bath, north-east Somerset, Rochdale and Darlington are among the areas with the highest levels of teachers with a degree in their specialist subject.

Recruitment targets for teaching have been missed for five successive years – and the report calls for cash incentives to make teaching more attractive.

It calls for “salary supplements” in subjects with shortages and says extra pay should be considered for areas which are “hard to staff”.

Anecdotally, I know of schools in the north east which find it incredibly difficult to recruit for new teachers, and teachers are leaving schools, retiring early, changing to somewhere else or giving up altogether. It wasnt that long ago when reports were circulated that about 1/3 of newly qualified teachers dont make it through their first teaching year.

A few months ago I posted a piece on the declining numbers of youthworkers, and the increasing amount of unfilled youthwork posts across the UK, a comment on this post yesterday prompted thinking around the broader profession, or field of working with young people. That post is here, with the comment below: Youthwork jobs staying vacant . The point being is that whilst teachers are disappearing, since 2010 there have been a substantial cut to youth services across the UK, which whilst each local authority has responsibility for its budget, these have been first to go (it seems) in many areas as each local authority has had its finances from national government reduced due to ‘austerity policies’.  More that 1/3 of all youthworkers in the UK paid for by statutory authorities have lost their roles, or are now in departments that have almost nothing to do with the practice or philosophy of youthwork. And, as I pointed out here, from a situation in the North East, there is still great need for the practice of youthworkers in communities, just that schools are picking up the pieces, and youthworkers are round holes in the social work square peg.

There is a much broader question here. No it is a statement.

Growing up in the UK is tougher now that it was 10 years ago.

And, there are now less adults around, who are paid to be supportive and educate young people than there was before. Those who are around are either fantastic volunteers, or voluntary or enterprise groups who themselves are struggling to raise the funds and may be using every engagement with young people as a target a measure for future funding. But Im not going to repeat all the issues that austerity has brought upon young people.

But if you think the situation with lost teachers is bad, and I know this grabs the headlines for at least an hour. (by the time I wrote this, the above news piece had already been taken off the bbc news front page and replaced by something more newsworthy or readable, Prince Harry singing) Then what is also evident is that the joined up collective act of supporting, educating young people and helping them flourish in society is in need of systematic and collective new thought.

Taking into account;

The breadth of education possibilities and multiple intelligences

Poverty and ensuring equality of opportunity, especially of creative subjects like drama, music, philosophy and languages

The use of data as a way of determining the future for young people and how this restricts growth

Testing and examinations that induce stress for children as young as 7.

League Tables and the whole issue of competition between schools and schools run as businesses

Support for young people that exists outside of school time, and making this universal across the UK

Valuing informal and young person led education processes

And i am sure there might even be experts in these fields who would add more to these things.

The effect of the employment market on education, ie solely preparing young people for work ( – what about the rest of life? )

But an issue about the reduction of teachers, coupled with the only rare sighting of the even lesser spotted youthworker, is a grave cause of concern for the health, education and well being of young people in the UK. And a reason why growing up in the UK is tougher than it was 10 years ago. There has to be serious questions about the field of working with children and young people and the education (both formal and informal) that they receive and are part of.

Its not a competition to see who has the fastest shrinking profession. The great loser is young people themselves. And no-one in education, whether formal or informal should take their eyes off this.

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Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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