Universities have been told by Scotland's teaching watchdog that they can admit students onto teacher-education courses who do not hold the minimum entry requirements in English and maths – if they want to train in one of the subjects worst hit by the teacher recruitment crisis.
The new recruits will, however, have to hold the qualifications by the time they are ready to enter the profession.
In a bid to tackle teacher shortages – particularly in Stem subjects – the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which sets the minimum teacher education entry requirements, has decided to relax the rules.
Typically, to get onto a teacher-education course in Scotland a candidate would need at least the equivalent of Higher English and National 5 maths. However, in a bid to open up teaching to a wider range of potential candidates at a time of teacher shortage universities have been told that – particularly in subjects that are tough to fill - students can “gain the required qualifications concurrently and/or as an exit qualification to their [Initial Teacher Education, or ITE] course”.
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The advice to universities has come from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the body responsible for higher and further education funding.
The SFC acknowledges that "challenges are likely to remain with recruitment to some subjects" in the coming academic year and urges universities to "continue to be proactive in the promotion of teaching as a career choice".
It then adds: “Universities are also asked to note that the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) advice on entry qualifications allows students who do not possess all the required qualifications – particularly English and Maths – at entry level to gain the required qualifications concurrently and/or as an exit qualification to their ITE course.
So, for example, a Stem graduate who does not have Higher English could study for an appropriate award alongside their ITE studies. Universities are requested to take this flexibility into account for subjects that are difficult to fill.”
Earlier this month, Tes Scotland reported on one of the new fast-track routes into the profession, the University of Dundee’s Supported Induction Route, which sees students complete the postgraduate teaching qualification, the PGCE, and probation in just 12 months.
Sonia Moniz – who is originally from Portugal – completed the qualification when it ran for the first time last year and is now working as a full-time chemistry supply teacher in Dundee.
However, while Dr Moniz has a PhD, she did not have Higher English or an equivalent qualification when she embarked on her initial teacher education. She therefore sat her Higher English last year at the same time as training to become a teacher, ultimately achieving an A-grade.
The advice for universities from the SFC about teacher education entry requirements is contained in the recently published targets for teacher education courses in the coming academic year.
The total number of teachers the Scottish government hopes to train in 2019-20 remains broadly similar to the current academic year, with the target for primary and secondary teacher recruitment set at 4,180, as compared to 4,130 this year.
However, it is unlikely the target for secondary teacher recruitment will be hit in hard to fill subjects like maths and technological education.