The Future of Teaching – Jon Severs

As part of the Chartered College of Teaching’s ‘Future of teaching’ work, Jon Severs – editor of Tes – shares his insights on the future and updates on the changes at the publication.

Firstly, can you tell us about the changes at Tes and why it matters to teachers?

For 111 years, since it was first published, Tes has evolved to meet the requirements of the sector it serves. The latest changes are no different and were driven by a belief that now, more than ever, we need to be serving schools, and those who work in them, above all else.

The most noticeable change is that we start 2022 as an all-digital magazine having issued the last print edition on 24th December 2021. However, what’s most important is our shift in content. We’ve tightened our focus to ensure that every single thing we produce enables schools to focus on their core purpose: to help every pupil be the best they can be. Our news output, whether covering policy, compliance, Ofsted, exams or anything else, continually asks the question what does someone in a school need to know about this? If the answer is that they don’t, then we won’t write about it. We’re not interested in wasting teachers’ time – they have none to waste.

We’ve also created a new analysis team, which helps to translate the latest policy, compliance document, issue, or challenge into a briefing that a teacher can understand quickly and with some clear next steps. Finally, we have focussed even more on our teaching and learning content: our team goes out and finds the best practice, the most interesting research, the most powerful ideas. 

Why does this matter? Put simply, it helps teachers help pupils. If we can keep teachers informed, challenge their thinking and save them time, they will be better equipped to tackle the countless challenges in front of them to ensure every child has an equal chance of success. 

Tes recently published its 2022 wellbeing report – how would you summarise the wellbeing of the profession at the moment? [read the Tes report]

Teachers are the most resilient of all the professions. Many professions are tough, demanding jobs, but few others are used so frequently as a political football, or as an ideological crusade. This means constant criticism and change. And that is exhausting. On top of that, schools have become the conduit for all government intervention, but with little resource offered to support this. We’re setting schools an impossible task.

So yes, teachers are tired, they are low on confidence, they are annoyed. But the amazing thing is that the kids will never see that. For the kids, the teachers remain the stable, enduring constant. That’s a hell of an achievement but it takes a terrible toll. For instance, our research found that only 38 per cent of staff felt confident in their roles and what was most concerning was that compared to our 2021 data it had dropped by half from 79 per cent.

In short, something needs to be done to better support teachers in all areas because they can’t keep going like this for much longer. 

We’ve seen the workload of teachers increase throughout the pandemic – how do we tackle this?

It’s almost an impossible question, because the answers are so context dependent not just in each school, but in each department or year group. That said, I think there is an over-arching sentiment that would do so much good in education, and that is trust. If at every level of the schools’ system, including the DfE, we trusted teachers more – trusted each other more – so many of the causes of workload would disappear. Because so much of that workload is actually just checks that teachers are doing what they should be. Some are necessary, but the balance is completely wrong at the moment. 

What do you think the future of teaching should look like?

The core elements of teaching has always been the same: it’s about the transfer of knowledge (of all types, not just academic) through a trusted relationship between an adult and a child. As long as whatever is in our future still enables that to happen, then I think we would all be happy. 

How do you see Tes supporting the profession in the future?

Tes has increasingly, listened to the profession and the changes we’ve made recently increase this even more.

We need to be the critical friend to every teacher, we need to be their confidant, we need to be their reassurance, we need to go out and fight for them. If we keep to this, then that’s how we can best support our readers. 

Do you think the government’s priorities are right in their strategy for recovery?

As far as I can tell, the government seem to be cynical about the need for any recovery at all. While I think the DfE is clearer on the need for action, the lack of any real funding for any recovery intervention bar the National Tutoring Programme – which is underfunded and a disaster – suggests recovery is not a priority at all in education for Number 10. It’s short-sighted and may go down as one of the biggest errors of the whole pandemic.