Universities have called for the government to increase funding for teacher training after it emerged spending is now £13 million lower than it was seven years ago – despite the ongoing recruitment crisis.
The government has sought to reassure the public over recent teacher shortages, stressing that it has increased spending on ITE every year for the past five years.
And it has been quick to highlight its investment in new routes into the profession, including redundant oil workers retraining as secondary teachers.
However, figures obtained by TESS that span the past 10 years show that spending on ITE has fluctuated wildly over the period and is now substantially lower than it was a decade ago.
For the 2016-17 academic year, the teaching grant stands at £25.6 million – £13 million lower than in 2009-10 when £38.6 million was spent on teacher training.
The figures also show that between 2009-10 and 2010-11, funding for ITE was cut by around a quarter (£10 million), from £38.6 million to £28.6 million.
The cut was a measure to cope with rising numbers of unemployed teachers, but funding for ITE has never fully recovered, despite recent teacher shortages.
At the time, teaching unions, parents’ groups and politicians criticised the move and warned that it could lead to a shortage of teachers in future years. Universities have now criticised the “yo-yo scenario”, saying that it leads to “staffing turbulence” in their institutions.
Universities are calling for the government to increase its investment in ITE because schools of education are being forced to fall back on associate tutors employed on precarious contracts.
Dr Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education, said: “The impact on schools like mine can be quite turbulent if there are significant spikes or downturns [in funding].
“This is because we will have staffing in place, or not, and will have to respond to those spikes or downturns. Employing new staff, or losing staff, is not a quick process… I suspect that all stakeholders are agreed that a yo-yo scenario is not a good one.”
Professor Donald Gillies, head of the School of Education at the University of the West of Scotland, said: “The finance departments in universities won’t approve anything remotely close to a permanent appointment based on our income, so we have to fall back on part-time staff, so that means associate tutors and secondments.”
These roles, he said, were “not very attractive”, as colleagues ended up on flexible contracts that could guarantee only a certain number of hours.
'We have to fall back on part-time roles that are not very attractive to staff'
Education secretary John Swinney recently challenged schools of education to come up with a “coherent and linked” approach to ITE and to create a wider range of routes into the profession. They have until 2 September to put forward their proposals.
ITE leaders have called for the new model of teacher education that emerges to come with “consistency and sustainability” in funding. Teacher education should be funded on a par with the likes of medicine and dentistry, they argued (see box, “Call to bring teaching in line with medicine and dentistry”, below).
A Scottish government spokesperson said that more than £2 million funding was being made available to train an extra 260 teachers in the coming academic year, and the target for 2016-17 was 66 per cent higher than 2011-12.
“We have delivered our #inspiringteachers campaign to encourage more people into the profession,” she added. “We also support innovative ways to encourage more graduates into teaching in areas with difficulties.”