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New teaching apprenticeships would counter 'anti-intellectualism' and stop trainees from dropping out, report claims

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Two-year "higher-level apprenticeships" should be introduced for teachers to counter "anti-intellectualism" and stop new staff from dropping out, a report published today argues.

Academics are calling for the extra training to allow new teachers the time to develop their theoretical and practical understanding of pedagogy before becoming fully qualified.

Most new entrants to the profession should spend two years as apprentice teachers after completing initial education degrees or postgraduate certification in education courses, according to Dr Janet Orchard, of the University of Bristol, and Professor Christopher Winch, of King’s College London.

They argue the change would tackle what they describe as "anti-intellectualism" behind the government's push to shift teacher training out of universities and into schools. The academics also believe the apprenticeships would cut the numbers leaving teaching early.

“If new teachers do not feel adequately supported in their first teaching posts they are likely to become disillusioned very quickly," they write in their report "What training do teachers need?". 

"Our proposal for a higher grade apprenticeship following the award of QTS provides a realistic and appropriate framework for supporting new teachers at the start of their careers and staunching the flow of talented young people from the profession."

Around a quarter of teachers have left the profession four years after qualifying, according to government figures. The reseachers say part of the problem is the current 36-week PGCE course – which is not enough on its own to prepare candidates for the “difficult, demanding but ultimately rewarding” work of teaching.

The apprenticeships they suggest would see teachers work in the classroom with colleagues but also have one day a week for academic study at their university. Completing this apprenticeship would result in trainees gaining a Masters level qualification.

This year, for the first time, more than half of postgraduate trainee teachers will begin training on school-led routes.

But Dr Orchard and Professor Winch argue that behind the move towards a school-led system of initial teacher training lies the idea of teachers as "craft workers", who learn how to teach from working with masters in their field, rather than "professionals" – who engage with the theory and findings of educational research instead of acting on intuition.

They point out that current school-based routes which treat trainees as apprentices from the start such as Teach First and the School Direct salaried route, could also be adapted to their model, with two days a week of academic study in the first year and one day a week for the next two years.

But they stress that while the importance of on-the-job training for teachers is well understood,  there is now a “real danger” that the “critical and distinctive role” of universities could be lost.

“A longer period of funded training for teachers might seem unreal­istic at a time of fiscal restraint," they conclude. "However, the failure to retain teachers, once trained, in the face of a looming recruitment crisis suggests there is a false economy embedded in current arrangements, as well as a con­siderable waste of precious public resources.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want all teachers to continuously seek to improve their skills and we trust headteachers to decide what is the best way for them to do that."

"What training do teachers need?" is published as part of the Impact series of pamphlets by the Philosophy of Education Society.

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