The government is spending at least £312 million a year on training teachers who drop out of the profession within five years, according to an in-depth study looking at the wide variations in the costs and retention rates of different training routes.
The average cost for each trainee who is still teaching in state schools after five years is between £25,000 and £44,000 for most routes, the analysis – the most comprehensive to date – finds.
But the figure is as much as £70,000 for Teach First, which also has the highest dropout rate for trainees – 60 per cent after five years – the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says.
This compares with a dropout rate of 40 per cent for those on the former Graduate Teacher Programme (now replaced by School Direct salaried) or on school-centred initial teacher training (Scitt). The average cost of each trainee who is still in teaching five years later across all routes is £38,000.
The findings led researchers to stress the importance of the government focusing on retention and the cost-benefit ratio of different routes.
The comments come as the government is pushing for the emphasis to be placed on classroom-based teacher education through schemes such as School Direct.
“Dramatic changes to the system of initial teacher training should be based on assessments of the costs of each route in comparison to the benefit it brings, which has evidently not occurred to date,” said Ellen Greaves, co-author of the IFS report.
“School-led training has been introduced without clear knowledge of the costs and benefits of school-led and higher education-led training,” Ms Greaves told TES. “There is a whole other set of questions about the economies of scale. If we move to a system with many small providers, are we able to get economies of scale?
“If the retention rates improved, the government would have to train fewer new teachers, which would reduce the cost.”
The IFS points out that for most schools, the benefits of being involved with ITT outweigh the expense, and this is true even for routes with higher costs, such as Teach First.
Patsy Weighill, headteacher of Bilton School in Rugby, said that she took on potential trainees as paid learning supervisors for a year before they started a School Direct salaried course and then completed a newly qualified teacher year at the school.
The extra cost was worth it to ensure that she was able to take on the right teachers and retain them, Ms Weighill insisted.
“Three of the trainees we had five years ago are now in leadership positions,” she said. “It’s about continuity of staff for the kids and about developing a workforce that has been supported throughout their first three years, which makes them less likely to drop out.”
Teach First has disputed the figures in the IFS report, arguing that the authors do not make a fair comparison between routes. The charity said that the calculations for Teach First covered two years of costs, compared with one year for all other routes. It added that its costs also included the price of attracting trainees, unlike the data for other routes.
“Teach First plays a unique role in recruiting those with leadership potential, who may otherwise not have taught, to work in our most challenging schools,” said executive director of programmes Sam Freedman.
He also stressed that many graduates of the two-year Teach First scheme went on to make an important contribution to society beyond the classroom.
A second report by Education Datalab for the charity shows that the Teach First trainees who joined between 2008 and 2012, who stay in teaching, were seven times more likely than similar PGCE students to be in a leadership post by 2014.
About 35,000 new teachers are needed each year in England’s schools, and the National Audit Office has said that the government spent as much as £700 million on teacher training in 2013/14. Despite this, there is huge concern about a growing recruitment crisis.
Last week, the School Teachers’ Review Body warned that there had been “significant shortfalls” in recruitment to secondary teacher training and a “significant increase” in the number of teachers resigning.
The Department for Education pointed out that the IFS analysis looked at all people who had begun teacher training and included those who had dropped out before qualifying. The figures also did not take into account teachers who had stayed in the profession but were in independent schools, working as supply teachers or on maternity leave, it said.