The experiences at the school of her son, who has autism, were a reason for Merel van Vroonhoven to choose education. "Teachers who always see the possibilities of a child and not the limitations."
The experiences at the school of her son, who has autism, were a reason for Merel van Vroonhoven to choose education. "Teachers who always see the possibilities of a child and not the limitations."

Picture: Fred van Diem

'We will not solve the teacher shortage with the current approach'

As AFM chairman she had a secretary and a driver. As Miss Merel she started her third internship at a primary school and she gave an important advice to the Ministry of Education about the teacher shortage. The Education Magazine interviewed Merel van Vroonhoven, the most famous side entrant in the Netherlands.

From the AFM to primary education: that was quite a career switch.

“I realized that I want to make a more concrete contribution than as a director. For me that meant choosing special education. The experiences at the school of my own son, who has autism, were also an example: teachers who always see the possibilities of a child and not the limitations. ”

How did the first year go?

“The year has flown by. It is so beautiful to see how quickly children learn and develop. The nice thing is that they are very open and direct. 'Miss Merel, are you already fifty years old ?! Then you're almost dead. ' If it is important to you which title is on your business card, you will quickly lose it for the class. ”

'We will not solve the teacher shortage with the current approach'

In the meantime you were also an 'independent booster'. On behalf of the minister, you carried out research into the approach to the teacher shortage and spoke to hundreds of people, from the workplace to the board. What are your conclusions?

“The main conclusion is that the current approach will not solve the teacher shortage. It is too fragmented, too casual and too limited. Much more needs to be done and quickly. First, more cooperation in regions between school boards themselves, but also with teacher training courses. It still happens that there are no shortages at one school, while at a school five hundred meters away groups are sent home. We must solve teacher shortages together instead of competing with each other. In addition, the target group and practice must become more central in the training programs. ”

That is not the case now?

“There are 384 routes to teaching, there are too many. Moreover, teacher training courses still take too little account of the type of student and his background. Adults with experience are treated as school leavers and previously acquired competences are hardly valued. For example, I spoke to a French teacher who also wanted to teach mathematics. The college demanded another four years of study. While she has been teaching for twenty-five years. I find that incomprehensible. ”

“In addition, training courses do not fit in well with practice and the professional group is hardly involved. Whether it concerns appropriate education, diversity in the classroom or multilingualism of children. It is discussed too late or too little. Furthermore, each program invents the wheel itself. I plead for, in the long term, to achieve a single national teacher academy. ”

It seems that Van Vroonhoven's advice on teacher training has been adopted by the ministry, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the VSNU. Read: 'Teacher training overhauled'

How do you actually like your own teacher training program?

“It is progressing well. But I recognize myself in the experiences of the many teachers in training that I spoke to as a catalyst. You have to write a lot of reports. Of course you have to think before you act, evaluate well afterwards and learn from feedback, but it is very bad tick the box become. Following the procedure threatens to become an end in itself. ”

Do you receive sufficient guidance as a side entry student?

“I hear varying stories about that. In some schools a teacher is scheduled to guide beginners, other schools use the side entrants to fill in the gaps. In that case the chance of success is small. There really needs to be more money and attention for guidance. Fortunately, a first step was taken in this last year. ”

'Recruiting side entrants makes little sense if many teachers leave education'

You also refer to a task force in your report?

“At the moment there are many initiatives, but they still lack control and effectiveness: every large city has its own plan, then there is also a regional approach, and so on. It is all too fragmented. There must be a task force that takes control and shows strength, based on a shared vision with a clear, coherent, multi-year approach. We are going to do this, in that period and with that we will achieve these goals. Talk less, do more. ”

“I also identify a number of underexposed topics, such as a shortage of school leaders and the retention of teachers. There is a lot of emphasis on recruiting side entrants, but that makes little sense if many current teachers leave education. That is why it is such a shame that the money for the teachers' grant, for the development of teachers, has been used to increase the intake. Because in fact it is about the same subject: tackling shortages. ”

And salaries in primary education must be raised: the pay gap with secondary education must be closed.

“That is not a panacea for everything, but it is one of the building blocks for success. I have not investigated whether you should integrally equalize salaries or, for example, allowances. But something has to be done. ”

What was your best moment?

“Every day is full of wonderful moments. Like a Somali boy in a lesson about Mondrian, he thinks he can't draw. But at the end of the lesson proudly shows a beautiful drawing. Then your whole day is good. ”

And the least beautiful moment?

“Those are the moments when you are confronted with your own inability. When for all kinds of reasons - too little support, too little baggage, too large a group - you can't give a child the attention you would like to give. Then you will come home sad. ”

This was a selection from the interview with Merel van Vroonhoven in the October issue of the Onderwijsblad. You can read the whole story in the magazine. The Education Magazine in your mail every month? Join the AOb!

The recommendations of Samen strong for every child
  • Establish a sustainable (regional) cooperation between educational parties, with a legally anchored social task.
  • Put the target group and practice at the center of training programs. Adults need a different approach than school leavers. Also combat fragmentation, for example by setting up a national teachers' academy.
  • Pay more attention to underexposed topics, such as the shortage of school leaders, students in a vulnerable position, shortage of subjects in secondary education and retention of sitting teachers.
  • Start a task force that will develop a clear, coherent, multi-year approach.
  • Address the pay gap between primary and secondary education.

Also read: 'Teacher training overhauled'

More about the shortages: 'The teacher shortage continues'




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