As we approach the end of a very challenging academic year, particularly with respect to staffing, STEM Learning’s Network Education Lead, Sarah Longshaw, considers how our summer schools help to give teachers a head start for next term.
"Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to" said Richard Branson in 2014. What’s this got to do with schools? Well, the rate of state school teachers leaving the profession hit the highest rate for four years in 2022, with one in 10 (9.7%) of all qualified teachers leaving and 12.8% of new teachers leaving after one year. The issue of teacher retention is a complex one - and one which is currently subject to much debate.
One thing that schools can do is invest in staff development. A recent report into the impact of the CPD offered by STEM Learning shows that a teacher engaging with our CPD is 155% more likely to stay in the profession and that this percentage is similar (151%) for those at the very start of their careers - a time when almost one third of science teachers leave the profession).
STEM Learning's early career summer school for secondary teachers provides in depth support focused around core concepts, misconceptions and practical work – something that those at the start of their careers are often most nervous about. If you have several new starters or other ECTs in your school or Trust, it also provides an opportunity for those teachers to make contacts before September. Remember that subsidies are available to help with the cost too.
I was lucky enough to deliver sessions on a summer school last year, and saw how the participants grew in confidence as they trialled different practicals, considered the underlying misconceptions and were able to share ideas from their own practice, while also seeking advice from those with more experience. And, while the courses were initially intended for ECTs, they are equally valuable to experienced teachers of other subjects, who may be due to deliver science for the first time and need support – particularly around managing practical work.
We know that there are more teachers who are teaching outside of their specialism including at A-level and again the summer schools for ECTs teaching A-level (with a separate subsidy) can help develop confidence. They also provide the chance to develop a network of peers who are in a similar position – which is even more important for the sole teacher of an A-level subject in a school.
We appreciate the importance of a work-life balance – so if teachers are attending summer schools, it might be worth considering whether they could be given time off before the end of term - perhaps because exam classes have left? Is there a way to be creative with cover?
Research has repeatedly shown that CPD has a positive effect on teacher effectiveness, which can improve student outcomes. With this in mind, what better way to welcome new teachers to the profession, to support those taking on a new subject in the new academic year or simply to make existing teachers feel valued?