Apprentices could offer better value than 'overqualified' Teach Firsters, thinktank suggests

Centre-right thinktank suggests overqualification in teaching is a problem because it reflects a 'wrongful allocation' of resources, and results in 'lower career-satisfaction levels'

Will Hazell

Teachers in England are among the most dissatisfied, research shows

Teachers are overqualified and apprenticeships could provide better value training than schemes like Teach First, a thinktank has suggested.

In a report published today, Reform says that rather than trying to attract "high-achievers" through programmes such as Teach First, schools should reduce the "overqualification" of their staff by recruiting more apprentices.                 

The centre-right thinktank also recommends that schools join the "gig economy" by using Uber-style platforms to employ supply teachers.

Reform's report on the public sector workforce says that recent efforts to improve recruitment in schools and other public services have focused on hiring academically successful graduates through schemes like Teach First.

'Wrongful allocation' of resources

However, it argues these schemes have failed to provide "sufficient evidence" to support the claim that those who do well academically make for better workers.

"It is likely that a greater use of apprenticeships could provide a more skilled and diverse public-sector workforce, and reduce levels of over-qualification, at better value for money," the report says.

It adds that overqualification is a problem because it reflects a "wrongful allocation" of resources, and results in "lower career-satisfaction levels".

The report points out that Teach First is the "most expensive" of the different initial teacher training routes.

While Teach First entrants make up 7 per cent of postgraduates training to become secondary teachers, they represent 11 per cent of the training costs.

The report says that if all teachers were trained through the Teach First route, the combined costs to schools and central government would increase by 46 per cent, whereas if they were all trained through the cheapest route – unsalaried School Direct – it would save 8 per cent.

It also points out that retention rates for Teach First graduates are lower than any other trainees for which data is available.

The report says there is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of Teach First, but concludes on balance that "the increased cost does lead to improved outcomes".

Teach first reaches 'a small minority'

But it adds: "To justify the significant cost difference, outcome measures should be improved across all routes to allow for fair comparisons.

"If Teach First does turn out to be a superior model, its components should be analysed separately to identify the sources of its success, and to find out if they can be replicated more efficiently across the teaching workforce."

The report argues that because Teach First only reaches a "small minority of children", even if it is the best way to secure high-quality teachers "such a small reach cannot be satisfactory".

It suggests apprenticeships as a possible alternative because they provide a "source of highly skilled labour, at a much lower cost than fast-track programmes".

A Teach First spokeswoman said: "There are many excellent routes into teaching and Teach First is proud to be just one.

"We have a unique role in recruiting quality teachers and leaders to be placed in areas of greatest need – allowing us to support the most disadvantaged pupils."

Gig economy

Reform also argues that schools should learn from the "gig economy" – where workers support themselves with flexible jobs acquired on online platforms, used by companies such as the takeaway food company Deliveroo.

The thinktank says public services could become "the next Uber" by using the gig economy to employ supply teachers.

The report also says that websites and articifically intelligent chat bots could remove nearly 90 per cent of administrative positions in Whitehall by 2030.

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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