Exclusive: Teacher trainers ordered to rethink entry standards to 'maximise recruitment'

DfE reveals 50,000 teacher training applications rejected last year

Helen Ward

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Teacher trainer providers have been told they will be checked to see if they are rejecting suitable candidates – after a drastic drop in applications.

Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, has written to initial teacher training providers today saying that the initial teacher training (ITT) criteria will be changed to: “encourage universities and schools to assess candidates on their potential to meet the teachers’ standard by the end of their training.”

He adds that providers will be required to show what steps they are taking to maximise recruitment.

'Support and develop'

The letter from Mr Gibb states: “We are amending our ITT criteria and Ofsted is making a number of minor changes to the ITE (initial teacher education) inspection handbook. It is right to reject candidates who are not suitable.

"However, it is also crucial to support and develop those who have the desire and talent to teach. The emphasis must be on assessing applicants based on their suitability to train to teach, rather than whether they are ready to teach at the point of entry.”

It goes on to add that: “Over the course of this recruitment cycle, we will continue to scrutinise our data to judge whether there are any institutions that have particularly high rejection rates in priority subjects. Should we have concerns about the levels at which universities and school-centred teacher trainers are rejecting priority subject candidates, my officials would like to discuss these with the relevant organisation as we are aware that the data can only tell us so much.”

The Department for Education says that 50,000 applications for teacher training were rejected last year - but has not released the number of applicants rejected. Each applicant can make up to three applications.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: “We would always say if someone has the potential to be a good teacher after training – and the provider has the capacity – then they should go ahead and recruit them. But we shouldn’t panic and lower the bar in response to a recruitment crisis. ITT providers want to fill places, it is their bread and butter, they are not turning people away unnecessarily.

“We won’t countenance any lowering of the bar. That would have a detrimental effect on schools down the line and it would not be fair on candidates either."

Teacher training recruitment

Mr Gibb's letter comes just a few days after the latest Ucas statistics show that applications for teacher training are down by 29 per cent compared to the same time last year.

The figures show that there were 16,010 applicants for teacher training courses by 15 January 2018, compared to 22,650 applicants last year.

Jo Palmer-Tweed, executive director of Essex and Thames primary Scitt, said: “I don’t know of any provider who is rejecting people who are suitable to train, especially when there is a shortage of people. People I know are working incredibly hard to recruit and make places accessible and possible for people.”

The letter also says that this year’s approach of unlimited allocations for almost all subjects will continue for 2019/20 recruitment cycle. The position on subjects with fixed allocations: some primary routes and all PE routes will be confirmed later in the year.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Last year, more than 50,000 applications to initial teacher training were rejected by providers and, while it is right to reject candidates who are not suitable, we want to make sure that no candidate with the potential to become a great teacher is turned away.

“There are a record number of teachers in our schools – 15,500 more than in 2010 – and these changes will help ensure that trend continues by encouraging universities and schools to assess candidates on their suitability to begin training to teach, rather than expecting them to be ready to teach at the point of application to training courses.

“The bar for entrance to the teaching profession remains as high as ever, as parents and pupils would expect, and this is evidenced by the fact that the quality of new entrants into the profession is at an all-time high, with 19 per cent of this year’s cohort holding a first-class degree."

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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