Increase in teacher trainees is 'too little, too late', providers complain

20th April 2017 at 15:10
University and school initial teacher training providers unimpressed by shock government move to allow 25 per cent more trainee teachers to be recruited for September

Universities and schools say plans to increase the number of trainee teachers they are able to recruit this summer may have come too late to tempt more quality newcomers into the profession.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership has told certain teacher training providers that they may recruit up to 25 per cent more students to start courses in September 2017.

But the reaction from teacher trainers to this week's surprise announcement has been mixed.

'They might have spent their budget'

“To give 25 per cent to everybody now is quite bizarre," Jo Palmer-Tweed, the executive director at Essex and Thames Primary Scitt, a school-centered initial teacher training organisation in Southend, said.

“A lot of people have made plans on the numbers they had, they have done their staffing, timetabling and a lot of people I know have stopped recruiting because they are full. They might have spent their recruitment budget.

“To be told, when you have got just ten weeks of recruiting left, that you can have another 25 per cent is really unhelpful.”

And others agree that the move is too late.

Rachel Lofthouse, who heads Newcastle University's teacher training courses, said the university's school of education had decided not to take up the offer and increase its teacher trainee numbers by 25 per cent.

“With so much in flux over the last few years there are questions over staffing of programmes and the capacity for increasing the numbers of school placements in many regions," she said.

"Late changes to planning like this do not result in sustainable and stable provision. As such, this feels rather too little, too late to resolve the issues."

Allocation could be a welcome move

Samantha Twiselton, director of Sheffield Hallam University’s Institute of Education, said: “While the opportunity to recruit more excellent teachers into shortage subjects is welcome, it is regrettable that once again this is being done so late.

“If this had been planned from the beginning, we could have recruited good candidates who may now be lost to the system. It really is time to change how initial teacher education recruitment is planned and implemented.”

But Andrew Warren, chair of the Teaching Schools Council and director of the Britannia Teaching School Alliance, which trains teachers through the School Direct route, thought it was a good idea.

“I think these extra places are really welcome,” he said. “I’m glad they’ve taken action early. It gives us an opportunity, with time to go before the end of the summer term, to secure more places.”

The announcement comes after Ucas statistics show that the number of people training to be teachers dropped by almost 7 per cent last year.

In an email to providers, the National College for Teaching and Leadership says the move will help “maximise recruitment in areas that have the capacity to go further”.

The 25 per cent is in addition to a previous notice that had already said providers would be funded for a "tolerance" of up to 10 per cent more of their official limit for trainees in each subject.

It explains that an initial allocation of 10 English places could now be increased to 13 places, with a tolerance of two more places – meaning that 15 places could now be given without financial penalties.

A limited offer

But the flexibility is not open to everyone.

The additional 25 per cent will only automatically apply to providers and schools which have already recruited 90 per cent of more of their allocation – although other providers can request an increase in their allocation.

For universities, Scitts and School Direct partnerships, the extra allocation will apply to all initial teacher training providers for drama, history and primary postgraduate courses. But not in PE.

In art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music, universities and Scitts can receive the extra allocation, but not School Direct partnerships.

Recruitment in other subjects, including maths and physics, is already uncapped.

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