A new fast-track route into teaching that attracted huge media interest due to fears that Teach First would get a foothold in Scotland will train just 25 students in its first year.
The aspiration was that the new route – which will take 18 months to produce a fully qualified teacher, running from December to June 2020 – would attract up to 50 new recruits into the profession in the parts of Scotland and subjects where teacher shortages have been particularly acute. The programme is working in rural areas such as Argyll and Bute and Aberdeenshire, concentrating on subjects such as maths, computing and home economics.
However, the University of Dundee, which is running the course with the University of the Highlands and Islands, told Tes Scotland that the inaugural intake last month was just 25 students.
A spokesman robustly defended the figure, saying that 50 had not been a target “but the upper limit of available places” and that if it had not been for the new model, “many of the students would have been unable to enter teaching via the conventional route”.
He added: “As a result, 25 talented graduates with a desire to embark upon a career in teaching who might otherwise have been lost to the profession were able to take their place on this course.”
Generally, the Scottish government’s new routes into teaching – of which there are now 13 in total, including a two-year master’s that trains recruits to work in primary and secondary and a Stem fast track – have not been recruiting the hoped-for numbers.
Teacher training places unfilled
Last month Tes Scotland revealed that 39 per cent of the places on the new programmes created to address the teacher shortage had gone unfilled.
The aspiration had been that the routes – including the Dundee and UHI fast track – would sign up 235 recruits this academic year (2018-19), but, in reality, just 144 were expected to embark on the courses.
However, the Scottish government said it expected the number of graduates from these programmes to eventually exceed the target that was set when they were first announced, which was that they would support more than 200 new teachers to join the profession in Scotland.
It said that in 2017-18 those universities offering alternative routes had confirmed 388 student starts.
The subject specialisms involved in the UHI and University of Dundee fast track are chemistry, computing, home economics, mathematics and physics, with students based across the Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Falkirk, Highland, and Scottish Borders local authority areas.
When the plans for the course were first announced, there were fears that Teach First, which operates south of the border and puts new recruits in the classroom after an intensive six-week summer school, would bid for the £250,000 contract.
The charity, however, pulled out, saying it was concerned that the project deadline was too short to develop the programme it wanted to introduce.
Another major stumbling block for the charity, however, was finding a Scottish university partner to work with.
It was a stipulation of the contract that any successful bidder had to work with a university partner, but Scottish institutions agreed unanimously not to work with Teach First.