Exclusive: Teacher training bursaries 'cut by 50%'

Teacher trainers 'extremely disappointed' at 'significant reductions' to bursaries this year

Amy Gibbons

Primary school teacher

Teacher trainers have expressed dismay at cuts to bursaries amounting to "about 50 per cent of the previous year's budget".

Only secondary maths, physics, chemistry, biology, computer studies, languages and classics trainees will be eligible for bursaries in 2021-22, according to the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET).

In a letter to colleagues seen by Tes, UCET executive director James Noble-Rogers said this morning:

"There have been significant reductions equating to about 50 per cent of the previous year's budget. Highlights are:

  • Bursaries of £24k for secondary maths, physics, chemistry and computer studies students
  • £10k for MFL and classics
  • £7k for biology

"Other subjects and phases will not be supported."

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New guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) this morning shows that postgraduate bursaries for all eligible subjects have either been reduced or scrapped altogether.

This year, chemistry, computing, maths, physics, biology, languages and classics trainees could all apply for bursaries of £26,000.

But the picture is very different for 2021-22. Bursaries for chemistry, computing, maths and physics trainees will be reduced to £24,000, while languages and classics students will be eligible for just £10,000.

Meanwhile, bursaries for biology trainees will be slashed to £7,000, less than a third of this year's allowance.

The remainder of subjects eligible for bursaries this year will be excluded in 2021-22.

This includes geography, design and technology, English, art and design, business studies, history, music, religious education, and primary with maths.

Scholarships have also been cut. This year, chemistry, computing, languages, maths and physics trainees could apply for £28,000, while geography trainees were eligible for £17,000.

But for 2021-22, scholarships have been cut altogether for languages and geography trainees, and reduced to £26,000 for chemistry, computing, maths and physics.

Undergraduate students starting their course in 2021-22 may still be eligible for bursaries of £9,000 in their final year, if they are studying a qualified teacher status (QTS) course in secondary maths or physics, or an opt-in QTS course in secondary undergraduate computing, languages, maths or physics.

Mr Noble-Rogers said: "We are extremely disappointed about the reductions in bursary support for teacher education students. All students, in whatever phase or subject, need to be able to support themselves.

"They should also be treated equitably with their peers. Student teachers are a hugely beneficial resource for schools at the moment and they all need financial support that will allow them to complete their programmes. And the government must not become too relaxed about teacher supply.

"Although applications to ITE have increased because of the pandemic, the effect could be short-lived and underlying problems are likely to remain. Removing bursaries is a short term measure that could have long-term implications."

Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said: "Whilst the current financial situation faced by the government is an unprecedented one, we are disappointed that a short-term view has been taken on financial incentives designed to attract the best quality candidates into our classrooms.

"The immediate increase that we have seen in teacher recruitment does not solve the longer-term recruitment crisis, it only disguises it, and failing to take a long term view will only store up issues for the future."

Bursaries and scholarships are available to trainees on tuition fee-based teacher training courses in England that lead to the award of QTS. Eligibility depends on the trainee's highest relevant academic award and their teacher training subject.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "It is the sheer hard work of teachers and school staff that has enabled millions of pupils to return to their classrooms this term, highlighting more than ever the vital role the profession has as the country continues to navigate the pandemic and ensure children's education can continue.

"Teaching remains an attractive proposition, which is evidenced by the significant increase in applications over the last few months, and these financial incentives are set to attract those to the hardest to recruit subjects.

"We're also extending our new Apply pilot service to universities, ensuring it's easier than ever before for prospective teachers to join the workforce."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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