Half of recruits drop out of new route into teaching

But overall, Scottish government says retention rates on the new programmes compare favourably with traditional routes

Half of recruits drop out of new route into teaching

An official analysis of the Scottish government’s new routes into teaching shows a programme that relied on recruiting unemployed teachers from Ireland is likely to wind up this year, as teacher shortages begin to bite in that country.

The analysis, conducted by the Scottish government and uncovered by Tes Scotland, also shows that some of the new teacher education programmes introduced to address the teacher recruitment crisis have dropout rates in excess of 50 per cent, although the overall retention rate for the new routes is put at 83 per cent.

Another issue highlighted in the papers is that there is still no bespoke category of registration for the new breed of teachers being produced by two of the programmes, who are qualified to teach across both primary and secondary, but who must register as either primary or secondary teachers - although the General Teaching Council for Scotland has added "with transition" to their entries on the register.


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The papers say there is an “urgent need for clarity on the GTCS registration of graduates from this programme to help ensure their enhanced skills are appropriately recognised”.

Meanwhile, it is also revealed that the route into the profession for oil workers who lost their jobs during the downturn in the industry in 2016 cost the government £190,000, but resulted in just 11 new teachers entering the profession.

In the first year, 19 career changers embarked on the programme but just 10 stayed the course – a retention rate of 53 per cent. Many of the participants “had not fully explored or considered the expectations and reality of being a teacher and this had a negative impact on retention”, said the papers.

That particular route has been scrapped due to “a change in the fortunes of the sector” and now the Scottish government says it is “very likely” the University of Glasgow two-year masters, designed to address the shortage of Catholic primary and secondary teachers by recruiting unemployed teachers from Ireland, will also stop running.

Initially, the Glasgow programme was oversubscribed but the new analysis by the Scottish government states: “In the course of the last two years, teacher shortages have emerged in Ireland. As a result, the Irish government is now revising its strategy for recruitment for the years ahead. Consequently, there has been some political pressure which has perhaps restricted opportunities for recruitment for Scottish schools.”

It concludes that, as a result of the “increasing challenges in attracting qualified teachers from Ireland”, academic year 2019-20 is “very likely to represent the final intake of this programme”. 

According to Scottish government figures over the past two academic years – 2017-18 and 2018-19 – 799 students have embarked on the new teacher education courses, with 360 completing their programmes and 300 continuing, representing an overall retention rate of 83 per cent. This, the document states, compares favourably with the retention rate of 80 per cent on traditional routes into teaching.

However, some of the new programmes have struggled to retain even half of recruits, including the secondary version of the Distance Learning Initial Teacher Education (DLITE) programme.

DLITE primary has been offering part-time training to people in work in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Highland and Moray who want to become teachers since 2013. The 2017-18 cohort had a retention rate of 76 per cent, producing an additional 57 teachers. However, the secondary version of the programme, which has attracted almost £250,000 of government funding and got underway in 2017, only produced five new teachers, with six dropping out.

The Scottish government analysis of the programme states: “Although the numbers joining this programme are small, retention appears to be challenging, given that over half of cohort one (n=6) did not complete the programme and a third (n=3) of those starting in June 2019 have withdrawn.”

One of the most successful courses was the University of Edinburgh’s returning-to-teaching course – aimed at those with a teaching qualification from Scotland or abroad who wish to return to teaching after a period away. It had high retention rates and more than 170 people successfully completed it between 2017-19.

A GTCS spokeswoman said the body was continuing to discuss the proposal to create a category of registration covering the primary/secondary transition but in the meantime graduates from the new programmes were being registered as primary or secondary teachers “with transition” to “ensure that potential employers are aware of the range of skills of these graduates”.

The spokeswoman said: "It is important to be clear that these university programmes do not cover the ability to teach in all stages in primary and secondary. They variously cover all primary and some aspects of secondary or secondary specialism; and some aspects of P5 to P7. This explains why there have been complications about creating any clearly defined transitional category.” 

She added: “We will continue to work with universities and employers to consider the links between teaching qualifications, registration and employment, and to ensure that these programmes align with the current employment system for teachers.”

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