Bursaries for primary trainees are slashed

30th October 2015 at 00:00
Experts warn that funding cuts could intensify recruitment crisis

Millions of pounds are being slashed from the government funding available to trainee primary teachers, TES has learned, with experts warning that the cuts will fuel the growing school recruitment crisis.

From next year, thousands of trainees will receive thousands of pounds less in bursaries and salaries from the Department for Education than they would have last year. Cash-strapped schools said they would struggle to make up the shortfall, and the cuts are predicted to put people off joining the profession.

TES has calculated that the changes would affect more than half the entire annual cohort of primary teacher trainees, based on 2014-15 figures. They would also impact on some secondary trainees in computing – a subject already hit by shortages.

The unexpected move by the DfE has led to outspoken criticism from two government advisers.

Sir Andrew Carter, the primary headteacher who led the coalition’s review of initial teacher training, said: “The government has to understand that if it is not careful, what will happen is you’ll get a lot of [recruits coming into] secondary schools and primary will be a problem.” He warned that schools would find it difficult to find any extra money for trainees’ salaries.

Ministers have already been condemned for their insistence that there is no teacher recruitment crisis. So far, secondaries have been hit hardest by the teacher shortages. But the DfE has fallen short of its recruitment target for primary trainees for 2014 – the third year in a row.

Now TES has learned that cuts to bursaries and salaries are being made that would have affected 10,500 of the 19,000 primary teachers who began their initial training in 2014-15.

Professor John Howson, a teacher workforce expert and honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “They are risking creating a crisis in primary where there isn’t one.”

The news comes in the week that the DfE launched a £3 million prime-time television advertising campaign featuring real “gifted and passionate” teachers, in a bid to attract more people to the profession. The advert states that they could receive “up to £30,000 tax-free to train”. But although that figure may be true for secondary trainees with good degrees in certain shortage subjects, funding for thousands of primary trainees is now being cut.

Bursaries of £9,000 were available for primary trainees with first-class degrees or PhDs in 2014 and 2015, but the amount will fall to £3,000 in 2016. Bursaries for primary trainees with 2:1 degrees will fall from £4,000 to £3,000.

For primary maths trainees with 2:2 degrees or better, bursaries are being halved from £12,000 to £6,000, while primary maths trainees with degrees lower than a 2:2 will have their bursaries cut from £6,000 to £3,000.

In 2014-15, some 8,900 primary trainees – nearly half the cohort – received a bursary.

Sending ‘the wrong message’

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said: “It sends the wrong message to cut primary bursaries. Skilled teachers are as important at this phase as any other as this is where the foundations are laid.

“The recruitment crisis facing schools appears to be more acute in the secondary sector at the moment. However, primary schools are also struggling. Our own survey data shows that headteachers in primary schools are having particular difficulty in finding enough key stage 2 teachers.”

DfE funding cuts will also hit the School Direct training salaries that were paid to 1,584 primary trainees in 2014-15. For non-specialist primary places, funding for salaries has been cut by 35 per cent. In inner London schools that will mean a £6,200 reduction to £11,400 for 2016.

For schools taking on primary maths specialists, funding for salaries has fallen by 26 per cent for 2016. That is a reduction from £19,000 to £14,000 for schools outside London.

Dame Alison Peacock, a member of the government’s Commission on Assessment Without Levels, warned that the changes would hit recruitment. “We are already recruiting for 2016,” said the headteacher of the Wroxham School, a Hertfordshire primary that leads a group of institutions offering School Direct training. “This will impact on it. Our experience has been that people who previously said they would take a salaried trainee have had the funding cut and now can’t afford to do it.”

Funding for salaries for secondary trainees in computing has also been cut by 24 per cent.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the “generous” bursary system was reviewed annually to ensure it targeted areas most in need. The primary recruitment target for 2015 had been exceeded, they added.

DfE seeks teacher recruits in Canada

The government has advertised in a Canadian newspaper in an effort to attract overseas teachers, TES has learned.

Department for Education “transparency data” published this week reveals that advertising space was paid for in the Toronto Star and on the newspaper’s website.

The campaign took place in June, when teaching unions in the Ontario province were gearing up for strikes over pay and conditions.

Last month, TES revealed that the DfE was setting up its own international recruitment programme for maths and science teachers (“Recruitment crisis forces DfE to seek staff abroad”, News, 4 September). Officials said they had pinpointed “target countries” but didn’t specify which ones.

Now the DfE’s own data reveals that it has been seeking teachers in Canada, despite ministers’ insistence that there is no recruitment crisis.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Schools have always been able to recruit teachers from overseas. Outstanding maths and physics teachers are in demand across the globe and, where schools wish to recruit from overseas, we want to ensure they are able to do so from those countries whose education standards are as high as our own.”

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