It takes two
Tough times often bring opportunities with them. A growing shortage of teachers in core subjects in secondary schools – namely, english, maths and science, means there are opportunities available for school staff willing to be versatile and flexible in what they teach.
Once teachers have gained qualified status, they're free to teach other subjects if they have the right skills and support. While the majority of teachers will train and qualify in a specific subject, I am seeing more staff teaching additional subjects, particularly if they choose to qualify in oversubscribed subjects popular with students – such as PE or business studies.
Good teachers can generally turn their hand to teach a range of subjects relatively well. Particularly when there are clear links between subjects, such as science and maths. For example, many teachers may train as geography teachers but end up teaching history as well.
Schools are taking the Lead and Upskilling Staff
Government figures released earlier this year back up this trend, – they show that almost a quarter of maths teachers don’t have a degree level qualification or higher in the subject they teach. Among those teaching English, the figure is just over 20 per cent.
Hipkin points out that in some cases this move is partly being driven by schools themselves.
"Schools are looking in-house – they are seeing what expertise they’ve got within their own teams, and turning their attention to teachers who are willing to expand their roles. If you’re a head teacher and you haven’t had the response to a job advertisement you hoped for, or poor quality candidates, then you’ll look in-house."
Make your Intentions Clear
Teaching candidates can take advantage of this when applying for jobs, by making it clear to school leaders that they are versatile, says Hipkin.
“If you have additional skills, for example, a degree in a subject other than the one you teach, you should make the school aware you are open to taking on a dual role. Schools are looking at the person in the round, and they are trying to grow and nurture people rather than having a high turnover of staff after their induction year.”
This means, says Hipkin, that accepted patterns of recruitment with teachers moving on to different schools in order to build their career, are changing. He says, “In the teaching world there has been an acceptance that if the opportunities are not there, you will move. But if the school is developing you, then they’re giving you a reason to stay. It’s win – win, as schools want to retain good staff.”
For the teacher, taking on a dual role can be an attractive prospect, Hipkin explains: “The element of flexibility is a good addition to any CV. It keeps you fresh and it keeps you interested in teaching, and it shows you are flexible and versatile. Exposure to different subjects makes you a well-rounded individual.”
And it certainly won’t harm future prospects, adds Hipkin, particularly for senior appointments. “A post as head of department of PE, for example, wouldn’t tend to come up very much, but if you teach another subject as well, this will open up more opportunities in the long term for an individual.”
School-to-School Support will Drive Innovation
As schools adapt and change, there is an emphasis on information sharing, says Hipkin, with schools learning best practice from each other.
“Schools are increasingly coming together and supporting each other. Head teachers, for example, could send a teacher to another school to learn how they have done things. There is school-to-school support that will help drive innovations like this through. These initiatives have lots of support from senior leaders, and then this filters down to the whole school.”
Increased Responsibility brings Increased Rewards for the Right Candidates
Hipkin points out that whilst there may be an increased workload with teaching a dual subject, a good teacher will be up to the challenge.
“There is a whole new learning curve to go through – you may have a degree in maths, for example, but teaching maths in school is different. But for this increased responsibility there will be excellent knock-on effects and outcomes for your career. If you are very career minded and driven, an increase in responsibility shouldn’t faze you at all. Teaching dual subjects will help drive your career – the message is this person is really putting themselves out there, they’re very open-minded and they’re not afraid of challenges. It sends a good message.”