Skip to main content

Teacher apprenticeships: what you need to know

Around 1,000 apprentice teachers are expected to enter classrooms next year, but how will their training differ from current provision?

News article image

Around 1,000 apprentice teachers are expected to enter classrooms next year, but how will their training differ from current provision?

The government announced last week how much money schools would receive for taking on teacher apprentices in high-priority subject areas.

The new teacher apprenticeships will give graduates the chance to become qualified teachers while being paid to work in schools.

It is estimated that 1,000 would-be teachers will want to train in this way in the first year – and the number of apprentices is then expected to increase in subsequent years.

But some fear that adding another route into the profession will do little to ease the teacher shortage.

What is an apprentice teacher?

Apprenticeships are a way of training while working. Training is carried out both at work and off-site. Apprentices are paid employees. An apprentice teacher will be paid by their employer, while training to be a teacher.

Aren’t apprenticeships for 16-year-olds?

Apprenticeships are available for anyone over the age of 16, although entry requirements vary by sector. 

The teacher apprenticeship "standard" has been drawn up by a group of schools, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and training organisations, coordinated by the South Farnham Educational Trust.

The Institute for Apprenticeships has stated that entry requirements will be the same as for current graduate teacher training routes: apprentices must have a degree and pass a skills test.

A teacher apprenticeship for undergraduates – in which trainees would study for a degree while working in school – is also expected to be developed.

Why would a graduate want to be an apprentice rather than train through a university or school direct?

Because their tuition is paid for, and they get paid while they train.

Why have apprenticeships in teaching?

The government has committed to 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.

Since April 2017, all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million have had to pay the apprenticeship levy. This is money that is paid into an account and can then be spent only on apprenticeship training and assessment. The funds expire 24 months after they enter the account.

Some schools will pay the levy, and will only be able to reinvest the funds by taking on apprentices.

There are already apprenticeships available for other jobs in schools, such as teaching assistants or a facilities manager.

But a teaching apprenticeship would give schools another way in which to spend their apprenticeship money, and advocates also hope that a new route may attract additional people into teaching.

Will it attract additional people into teaching?

Perhaps. There is undoubtedly a need to attract more recruits – vacancies rose by 26 per cent in the year until Nov 2016 and at the same time the number of people entering or returning to teaching fell to its lowest level in five years.

Sir Andrew Carter, chief executive officer of South Farnham Educational Trust, who oversaw the development of the apprenticeship scheme, is optimistic.

He said: "This programme has the capacity to transform teacher supply. If every school in England had one postgraduate teaching apprenticeship, that could train thousands of teachers per year.

"If each school had two apprentices, then we would have enough new teachers to meet demand comfortably."

But the apprenticeship route seems so similar to the current school direct salaried route that it is not obvious how it will attract additional people.

Sean Cavan, chair of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), sees more potential in the undergraduate apprenticeship.

He told Tes that it had “the potential to attract people who would not otherwise think of teaching", but added that there was little clarity about what that apprenticeship route would involve.

And Malcolm Trobe, director of public affairs at the Association of School and College Leaders, was sceptical.

He said: "This looks like a hastily developed way of enabling schools to claim back against the apprenticeship levy.

"Potential applicants into teaching are already faced with a confusing number of routes into the profession and the addition of another route that appears very similar to School Direct will only add to the confusion.

"It would be far better if schools were exempt from the apprenticeship levy and that the focus was on rationalising the existing routes into teaching," he said.

What is the difference between the postgraduate apprentice route and the School Direct Salaried route?

Not much. In both cases, the trainee is employed by the school, the trainee is paid as an employee and there is funding for the school to cover training costs. And in both cases, the training is expected to lead to QTS.

The government has said that the new teaching apprenticeship will run in parallel with School Direct Salaried training in 2018.

But there are some differences: School Direct Salaried is aimed at career changers rather than new graduates, which is not necessarily the case for apprentices. In order to meet the apprenticeship regulations, apprentices will have to work for at least four terms, rather than the three required under the current postgraduate university or school-led routes. 

Apprentices will have to gain QTS after three terms as is usual with other graduate teacher training routes.

But in the first term of working as a newly-qualified teacher they will have to pass two further assessments – a lesson observation and an interview – in order to gain their apprenticeship qualification.

What pay and conditions will apprentices have?

One of the concerns about apprenticeships is the level of pay. Apprentices must be paid at least the national minimum wage, but the government has said that all apprentices will be paid as unqualified teachers. The minimum salary for an unqualified teacher this year is £16,626.

Employers who pay the apprenticeship levy may use up to £9,000 to cover training costs. There will also be grants for schools to cover the costs of each apprentice. The amount of the grant depends on the individual’s course and the location of the school.

Apprentices must spend at least 20 per cent of their time training, during working hours. But it is thought this time could be "front-loaded" in the same way that Teach First has an introductory summer school programme before trainees enter the classroom.



Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you