Robert Halfon’s answer to tackling teacher shortage is “laughable” says Harlow Labour leader

Education: Secondary / Tue 21st Dec 2021 at 09:48am

IF the Tory MP for Harlow’s answer to tackling potential staff shortages in schools caused by the pandemic wasn’t his genuine view it would be laughable writes the leader of Harlow Labour, Councillor Chris Vince.

Cllr Vince said: “Once again the Conservative government seems to think that they can call on an army of unpaid volunteers to solve their problems.  Yes a lot of volunteers came forward to support the NHS last year, but that wasn’t to do the jobs of Nurses and Doctors!  Is the MP for Harlow suggesting that we can plug gaps in classes with volunteers?  I’d love to know where he’s finding these volunteers.  Perhaps Owen Paterson will take time off from his £36k a year consultancy work to take on a class of 32 fifteen-year-olds about to sit their GCSEs?  Somehow I doubt it.

Sadly Mr Halfon will find the Paterson scandal and the ‘Tory Christmas Party’ scandal is going to make people less willing to ‘help out for free’, unless his own Tory chums start leading by example.  Perhaps Boris Johnson could give up his time playing Prime Minister to read out loud about his favourite pig to Pemberley Academy’s reception class.

Like the majority of people I want to schools to stay open and for children to get as good a possible education, even in trying times like these.  However, to say, as the MP for Harlow has in the past, that schools must stay open no matter what is at best naive and at worse irresponsible.  As I have said in the past I lost a former teaching colleague this time last year to Covid and I don’t want to lose anymore because of a stubborn government.

“There is a larger more general point to make here of course and that’s about Mr Halfon’s government’s continued disregard for the teaching profession.  Something I have seen first hand over a number of years.  It’s this concept that anyone can step in front of a class and teach or anyone can become a learning support assistant without any training or qualifications.  This is unequivocally wrong.  If Mr Halfon genuinely thinks that the best way for children to be educated is for schools to stay open then staying open then he needs to come up with a better, and safer, plan than just filling schools with unqualified and untrained volunteers, because this isn’t the way to get the best education for our young people.

However, over the past eleven years the Tories have put more and more pressure on the teaching profession, with more and more leaving in their droves.  Perhaps Halfon’s idea of getting volunteers is in fact some sort of pilot project designed to further undermine the profession.

“Mr Halfon may argue that these volunteers will be made up of retired teachers or retired lecturers. One retired teacher I am friends with on Facebook gave the response that he would come out of retirement to volunteer in schools (having spent over 40 years in the profession) in two words, let’s just say the answer was no.  Retired teachers know better than anyone that teaching isn’t as simple as walking into the classroom to teach.  There is also lots of planning and marking involved.  Unless of course the MP for Harlow thinks this can be done by the teaching staff who are ill with covid (which he probably does).  Equally planning a whole term of lessons in advanced in case you get ill is also unreasonable and doesn’t provide for responsive teaching.

I only hope that the rest of the Conservative government take Mr Halfon’s comments about volunteers in the way I did, I only hope!

“I wish all our hard working, professional teachers, all the best for the Christmas hols.  Thank you for what you do”.

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9 Comments for Robert Halfon’s answer to tackling teacher shortage is “laughable” says Harlow Labour leader:

Michael Hatton
2021-12-21 13:39:38

Sir - Yet again the leader of the Foot in Mouth group in Harlow pipes up with his regular squawk about schooling in general. This is the man who baled out of his dedicated profession, ha ha, in an attempt to become a full time politician, he doesn't seem to be very accomplished in either position.

2021-12-21 13:40:42

Halfon is out of touch... he will do anything to save money but not put money to good use where it should be helping the situation, I know hes disabled but seriously how long is this going to go on for... he should retire, his time has expired.

Chris Vince
2021-12-21 13:51:56

Michael is clearly a fan of mine ;-). I am not alone in leaving the teaching profession because of this government. I actually work for a homeless charity now. I'll leave you to make some jokes about that. An added point is that these retired teachers are by definition of retirement age and therefore potentially in the higher risk category.

2021-12-21 13:55:36


Nicholas Taylor
2021-12-21 13:57:17

On this occasion I would have to agree with Cllr Vince. Many of us will remember the Tory attempt to get voluntary staff to work at or indeed take on the running of Libraries. Whist in the main they had to back track in view of the public outcry, it gives a good idea of the mindset of many Tories.

Teacher's hubby
2021-12-21 19:01:21

Politicians of all shades need to stop bashing teachers and reign in Ofsted. Many teachers are leaving the profession because of things like that

2021-12-21 21:48:06

The Tories have been trying to run the country on the cheap since Cameron's 'Big Society' fantasy. If people weren't forced to with themselves into the ground and 'austerity' didn't hoover up community wealth there might be this volunteer resource. As it is there's a lot of volunteers in vaxx centres.

2021-12-23 11:21:14

Just retired from teaching after 53 years teaching. Over that time we have seen a number of recruiting drives that bring talented people from other professions, many make good and excellent teachers, however most leave after two or three years to return from whence they came. It's called voting with your feet. Similarly so with many new graduates, they complete their training, stay a while then go. Why? What Chris Vince is saying is relevant. Personally, over the last 20 years I was lucky to be able to find gaps in the system to run a special integrated learning course (iSTEaMplus) and so work with a number of enlightened schools in the uk and some around the world. It gave me the opportunity teach under both the English GCSE / A level and the International Baccalaureate systems. My point, the experience was an eye opener and my conclusion, the English secondary schools system is broken, it still runs on a model rather like that of a Victorian factory. IT systems are used inappropriately and actually add to the workload in English schools. Government after government has loaded more and more on to schools both teachers and students suffer the consequences. Essentially we have lost the last 40 years hammering down the wrong track. OFSTED has said that between 40 and 60 % of schools are failing: OFSTED was set up to ensure schools improve so clearly OFSTED has itself failed. Too much rigor has induced rigor mortis at the DFE. Chris Vince is right in many ways but RHs approach is more a symptom than a cause of an outdated system that needs bringing into the 21st century. The knowledge and the ed tec is there in the wings waiting to be employed to create more individually tailored better learning, better assessment, reporting feedback and help eliminate the stress and excessive workload. It won't happen until we have politicians and decision makers who begin looking forward rather than back. We have a system that focuses on passing terminal exams rather than education and competition rather than collaborating whilst it neglects to develop courses that develop creative thinking, skills and what's needed for a high skill economy.

Michael Hatton
2021-12-23 15:33:33

Sir - yet again novoman grasps a slender chance, just as his mate C V does, to give themselves a pat on the back for doing what they were paid to do, teach. CV did a runner and n.....n stuck with it under deplorable conditions etc, for no less than 53 years, how audacious of him, what does he want ? a medal.

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