FE teacher training falls by a fifth in a year

Government urged to create sector workforce plan to spur more people to apply

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The number of people training to teach in further education has dropped by more than a fifth in just one year, new figures reveal.

A report from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), shared exclusively with TES, shows a 22 per cent decrease in the number of learners studying initial teacher education (ITE) courses for FE between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The overall number of learners engaged on ITE courses for the FE sector dropped by more than 11,000 – the biggest year-on-year fall since the ETF started compiling data.

Concerns are also growing that a shortage of teachers, particularly in English and maths, could pose difficulties for the government’s plan to introduce T-level technical qualifications, which were announced last week.

The bulk of the drop was in learners taking Awards, with the total number falling to 25,970 from 34,340 the previous year. There was also a significant decline in Certificates: the number decreased by more than half, from 6,250 to 2,920. The only category that reported a small rise was Diplomas, PGCEs and Cert Eds (see graph, right).

‘More investment’ needed

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has called on the government to create a workforce plan to attract more people to teach in FE, as well as greater investment in developing the FE workforce. Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the AoC, said: “The government has ambitious plans for technical education and it needs to have a workforce plan in place to attract new entrants to the FE sector, and to ensure that colleges are able to continue to train and develop existing teaching staff.

“At AoC, we would like to see more investment in the FE workforce.”

A survey carried out by the AoC in partnership with TES last May showed almost nine-in-10 colleges were struggling to recruit maths teachers, with more than two-thirds finding it difficult to hire sufficient English teachers after a significant rise in the number of GCSE resits in the subjects.

University and College Union head of FE Andrew Harden said that to attract people into FE, the government needed to do “a much better job of selling the sector”.

“Unfortunately, massive cuts to the sector, attacks on pensions and falling real-terms wages have had exactly the opposite effect,” he said. “We have lost around 15,000 teachers since 2009 and if the government is serious about the role FE has to play in getting Britain match fit for Brexit and beyond, then it needs to deliver a more attractive role for current and potential staff, and help people to complete their studies.”

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, said the reduction in ITE students in FE could be attributed to the Lingfield report on professionalism in the sector, published in 2012. This led to the scrapping of the requirement that teachers in FE and skills hold qualified teacher learning and skills status.

Combined with budget cuts, this had led to less training taking place and an increased number of unqualified teachers working in colleges, Mr Noble-Rogers said.

This is an edited version of an article in the 17 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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