Who’ll teach the T levels?

17th March 2017 at 00:00
The recruitment crisis in schools is well documented, but the situation is potentially far worse in the FE sector

There is a teacher recruitment crisis in schools. The Department for Education might not want to admit it, but outside Sanctuary Buildings there is all-but-universal acceptance of the deeply troubling scale of the problem.

So what about in FE? Across colleges, training providers, and adult and community learning, there appears to be significantly less understanding of the matter. Credit to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) for its report on this hugely important issue, which is published today (see story, opposite).

Since the deregulation that resulted from the Lingfield review of professionalism in the sector, routes into FE teaching have become increasingly diverse. Aspiring teachers can take an introductory Award, typically lasting only a week or two; at the other end of the spectrum, they can take a year-long full-time PGCE at a university. Of course, following Lord Lingfield’s review, they no longer need any qualification at all.

As the ETF report points out with some understatement: “Deregulation of the sector has meant that there may be other qualifications that FE providers consider as providing a basis for sector entry. This creates a complex landscape for teacher training.” Quite.

Accordingly, pulling in coherent data is difficult. The ETF has to piece together information from Ofqual, Ofsted, the Skills Funding Agency, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, awarding bodies and providers to unravel the mystery of FE teacher supply. The results are striking: a 22 per cent drop in initial teacher education (ITE) recruits for FE in one year makes for concerning reading.

In the same period, the fall in the overall number of (full-time equivalent) teachers was less than 5 per cent. The complexity of the system makes a like-for-like comparison with the schools sector impossible but, to give a rough idea, the drop in ITE recruits for schools in the same period was less than 2 per cent.

If there’s a teacher recruitment crisis in schools, what on earth does that say about the situation in FE? With political capital invested in the new T levels and a desperate need to find teachers for these flagship qualifications, this is a situation the government can ill afford to ignore.

@stephenexley

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