Ben Weyts about teacher shortage on 1 September: “The situation is serious but not hopeless” | BACK TO SCHOOL

Figures from VDAB show that two weeks before the start of the school year, 2,400 vacancies were still open in education. According to Koen Pelleriaux, deputy director of community education GO!, this is only an underestimate and the number will increase during the school year. Not all schools pass on their vacancies to the VDAB and there is now no dropout of, for example, sick people.

Weyts has already taken measures to attract more people to education. For example, lateral entrants can take ten years of seniority with them, there will be a teacher bonus for those who want to teach but do not yet have a pedagogical competence certificate and the rules for permanent appointments have been adjusted so that starting teachers can more quickly see a permanent appointment.

For the education providers, these measures are not enough. They come up with different proposals themselves. This is how community education calls GO! to organize secondary education differently, more like higher education. “We need to get rid of all classes in classes of twenty students,” says Pelleriaux. A history teacher who teaches passionately can also do the same for a group of sixty students, while students can be guided for exercises in groups of four, is his reasoning.

Koen Pelleriaux, managing director of community education GO! © BELGA

Outsource tasks

Furthermore, duplication of work must also be avoided, says the GO! CEO. “It remains incomprehensible that thousands of math teachers for the fifth year take the same exam, while they all use the same curriculum,” he says. “Let teacher design teams develop teaching materials and exams for all teachers to use.”

Other tasks can also be outsourced, says Pelleriaux. He not only thinks about the supervision of the playground, but also, for example, correcting tests and exams. “We can outsource that to other professions so that teachers have more time to focus on their core tasks.”

Flexibility

Walentina Cools, general director of the Educational Association of Cities and Municipalities (OVSG), believes that too much is determined from above. The way in which schools organize themselves must be more flexible, based on the specific needs of that school. She notes that schools are looking for creative solutions to the teacher shortage, for example by combining classroom teaching with distance learning or by organizing the days differently. “We now work with standard days, Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4 pm, with Wednesday afternoon off. Schools could also decide to teach Wednesday afternoon, for example, in order to be able to teach all subjects,” she explains. “Let schools decide, for example, to let teenagers take lessons on Wednesday afternoons and to have them start later or stop earlier on other days.”

“Managements are imposed on many rules. For example, they are given different colored resources, clearly stating what they can use them for. Schools must be given the freedom to use those resources in a targeted manner. Give them the space and the confidence to decide for themselves what to do with them. do, depending on their needs,” says Cools.

To be able to do that, of course, a lot of sacred houses in education have to be demolished, she admits. The OVSG top woman again argues for a school assignment, in which matters such as training days, preparations and consultation moments are structurally built in.

Walentina Cools, general director of the Educational Association of Cities and Municipalities (OVSG). © BELGA

living labs

A pilot project will start this school year in which schools are given the opportunity to ignore the existing regulations for a while in order to test other concepts in practice in the fight against the teacher shortage. Lieven Boeve, director-general of Catholic Education Flanders, fears that these living labs can be used as an excuse not to take any more initiatives. These testing grounds are only being rolled out in a few schools and there will therefore not be concrete results immediately. “We can no longer afford to stand still,” says Boeve.

Boeve wants a political context to be created to fundamentally rethink the teaching profession and the organization of schools. Now, the fight against the teacher shortage is too often about temporary measures, bricolage, which complicate the current systems even more.

Lieven Boeve, director-general of Catholic Education Flanders.
Lieven Boeve, director-general of Catholic Education Flanders. © BELGA

Career Pact

He again pleads for a sustainable and decisive career pact, so that schools and school boards can pursue a real personnel policy. In addition, teaching staff in both primary and secondary education must be able to consist of bachelors, masters and teaching assistants with their own responsibilities within the school system. In this way a learning ladder is created and mobility is possible during the career.

Weyts emphasizes that schools and teachers already have a lot of autonomy. “Boards and teachers are the directors of the learning process and already have a lot of autonomy,” he says. “A class doesn’t have to be limited to 25 students and a team of teachers can already decide to have one teacher focus more on improving or preparing lesson plans, while another teacher can spend more time teaching.”

According to Boeve, even more resources could be used to tackle the teacher shortage, money that is provided for teacher wages and that is now not used because of the teacher shortage. “At the moment, the teacher shortage is helping the budget of the Flemish government. That is a shame because many schools are in trouble,” he criticizes.

The minister reiterated that schools that are struggling to find teachers may also use up to 20 percent of their budget for teachers’ wages to recruit other staff, such as technical or support profiles.

Also read: BACK TO SCHOOL. How do we solve the teacher shortage? We asked 50 directors (+)



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