Focus should be on teacher shortages, not strikes, says former Bury head

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the chang

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the change Picture: PHIL MORELY - Credit: Archant

A former Suffolk headteacher has raised concerns over teacher shortages insisting recruitment and retention — not strikes — are "the real issue". 

Geoff Barton, who spent 15 years as headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said staff shortages are "severe" and too many teachers are quitting the profession early. 

Mr Barton, who is now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the government's focus should be on "the fact it is impossible to raise educational standards without teachers" as opposed to strike action showdowns. 

Mr Barton's comments come after education secretary Nadhim Zahawi called any potential industrial action from teachers over pay and workload “unforgiveable”. 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government is planning to keep schools open

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi - Credit: PA

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Zahawi said: "Young people have suffered more disruption than any generation that’s gone before them and to compound that now, as recovery is in full swing and families are thinking about their next big step following school or college, would be unforgivable and unfair.”

The National Education Union (NEU) has said it will consult its members over industrial action in the autumn, while the ASCL "would be listening very carefully to feedback over the next few months", Mr Barton said.  

Writing in his blog, Mr Barton said the government did not achieve initial teacher training recruitment targets in physics, computing, modern foreign languages, music, geography, maths, or design and technology this year. 

Geoff Barton, former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, was also pleased about

Mr Barton was formerly headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Gregg Brown

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He said: "The government may claim that raising starting salaries to £30,000 will fix the problem that it created, but that’s of limited use when it is also the case that around 40% of teachers leave teaching within 10 years of qualifying.

"It’s like trying to fill a bucket with holes not only in the bottom, but all the way up the sides.

"For some reason ministers seem unable to see the link between this rate of attrition and their determination to impose pay awards which devalue the profession.

"So, the education secretary and the government might not like unions very much and may be savouring some sort of showdown with those union ‘barons’ we hear so much about in the press, but what he really should be focusing on is the fact that it is impossible to raise educational standards without teachers.

"If we are condemned to a cycle of never-ending teacher shortages, the schools white paper, with its bluster about raising attainment within eight years, is just hot air."