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Highest-achieving A-level students are least likely to apply to teach

Profession is losing out on the ‘best brains’ to take education forward, expert warns

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Profession is losing out on the ‘best brains’ to take education forward, expert warns

The country’s highest-achieving A-level students are the least likely to apply to teach, the latest official figures show.

Pupils who achieved an A-level point score of 18 – equivalent to three A* grades – have the lowest rate of applications to initial teacher-training courses, the figures reveal. And that rate has dropped by more than a quarter in the last year.

By contrast, those students who scored seven A-level points – equivalent to a C and two D grades – were the most likely to try for a career in teaching, with an application rate that was five times higher than the top achievers'.

John Howson, a teacher recruitment expert and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said that attracting those with the highest grades does matter.

'Moving education forward'

“We need some of them, because those are the people who will have the best brains for development work, for research, to take education forward,” he said.

 “These people have got a wide range of choices. Attracting them is a difficult problem to solve, but what we shouldn’t do is make it more difficult – when you impose a pay freeze, reduce salary increases – that is making the problem worse,” he said.

The government has been trying to raise the bar for graduates entering teaching, by withdrawing funding for those who do not have a 2:2 degree or above, in most subjects, and expanding Teach First, which requires recruits to have a 2:1 or first-class degree.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to work with unions and the sector to raise the status of the profession so it takes its rightful place alongside other learned professions like medicine and law.

“There are record levels of trainees now holding a first-class degree and almost three-quarters of trainees hold a 2:1 or above – demonstrating that teaching quality is the highest it has been in a generation.”


This is an edited version of an article in the 2 September edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereYou can also download the TES Reader app for Android and iOs. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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