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Exclusive: DfE looks to TAs to help solve teacher shortages

Department for Education explores converting teaching assistants into teachers as part of new recruitment strategy

teaching assistant numbers drop

Department for Education explores converting teaching assistants into teachers as part of new recruitment strategy

Converting teaching assistants into teachers could be a key part of the Department for Education's strategy for solving the teacher recruitment crisis, Tes can reveal.

As part of its preparations for a new teacher recruitment and retention strategy, the DfE is commissioning a survey of teaching assistants (TAs) in order to understand the “feasibility and any challenges” of them becoming teachers.

A DfE email seen by Tes invites bids from researchers to interview “a spread" of TAs of different ages and qualifications and in different types of schools in order to understand their “appetite” for becoming teachers.

It notes that the number of TAs has risen by 24 per cent since 2010. "Simultaneously," it adds, "challenges in teacher supply have worsened".

The email, sent out just before Christmas, says the DfE's teacher recruitment and retention strategy "aims to address these teacher supply challenges and consider new ways to encourage potential teachers to join the profession".

It says: "There is no available evidence on TAs’ intentions or perceptions towards becoming teachers. This research would fill this evidence gap and help the department understand the feasibility of (and any challenges associated with) encouraging TAs to become teachers.”

Experts say that even if just 1 per cent of TAs could be encouraged to become teachers each year that would mean at least an extra 3,500 teachers in the system.

Meanwhile TAs are already being used to plug gaps caused by a lack of teachers with assistants teaching maths for up to a year in some secondaries. 

The DfE research needs to be finished by April, according to the DfE document, sent out just before Christmas.

Questions to TAs in the research, described as “small-scale", are set to include: what do you see as the benefits/challenges of being a TA? What are your current qualifications? Do you intend to undertake further training/education? Do you have any desire to become a teacher, and why/why not?

The DfE refused to comment other than to say: “This research is in the very early stages and it will be published in due course.”

Training options for converting from a TA to teacher can be found here.

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