Since 2007 the Danish Union of Teachers (DLF) has been conducting an annual study to show the number of teaching positions in public primary and lower secondary education institutions that are occupied by staff with no formal training. The results, which are published in an annual report, show a startling picture of there being too few trained teachers to fill all the positions available in Denmark’s public schools.
Worryingly, the number of untrained teachers in schools has continued to grow over the four years since the study began. Without intervention, the problem is set to worsen in years to come as a large number of the trained teachers currently employed within the Danish public schools system are close to retirement age, while the number of teacher training college graduates is insufficient to fill the gap that natural turnover will create.
The DLF has always been clear that properly trained staff are an essential component of delivering high quality in every industry. This includes the education system. In response to this challenge, the Danish Ministry of Education, Local Government Denmark, and the Danish Union of Student Teachers, joined the DLF to launch a new campaign under the strapline ‘Become a Teacher’ in the spring of 2010.
Getting different stakeholders to agree their involvement was not an easy task, but what the DLF stressed was that for any such campaign to succeed there needed to be a real effort to set aside stakeholders’ differences relating to other issues, in order to concentrate on achieving the common goal of this campaign.
The aim of the ‘Become a Teacher’ campaign was to get young people to consider becoming a teacher and to try and improve the public image and status of the teaching profession. The basic idea was to capitalise on the fact that almost everyone has a strong memory of at least one teacher that has made a difference in their life.
If the campaign could make young people think about this, and the teachers who made a difference in their life, then, perhaps they would be more likely to convert the belief that teachers make a positive impact in other peoples’ lives by becoming teachers themselves.
A national campaign
The recruitment campaign was visible to the public through a strategy that included posters at bus stops in major cities. The concept of the posters was one of three Danish celebrities posing with their favourite teacher and stating how much the teacher had meant to them.
In addition, there were several events in major cities as part of the campaign. The events were carried out by volunteer student teachers and young teachers. They succeeded in creating a positive aura around teacher training and the teaching profession as a whole.
Finally, the campaign contained an element launched through the Internet. People were asked to upload video clips of them talking about their favourite teacher onto the campaign website. Everyone who visited the site was also asked to vote for the best video clip. More than 3,000 video clips were uploaded.
Education union leadership
In the summer of 2010 it was clear that, for the first time in several years, the number of people applying for teacher training courses had actually increased and the ‘Become a Teacher’ campaign was cited as one of the reasons why more young people decided to become a teacher. The DLF was an integral player in this campaign which turned out to be a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak raincloud currently hovering over the teaching profession in Denmark.