The £500K bill to put 49 teachers back into schools

19th May 2017 at 00:00
A scheme that encourages former teachers to return to the classroom is hampered by a lack of flexibility

A government recruitment scheme aimed at persuading more than 1,000 people back into teaching resulted in just 49 returning to the classroom, official figures reveal.

The failure of the Department for Education’s Supporting Returning Teachers pilot scheme has been blamed at least partly on teachers’ need for flexible hours.

The DfE figures, obtained through a Tes freedom of information request, reveal that 62 schools took part in the pilot, which ran from September 2015 to the autumn term of 2016, and offered 1,062 tailored training places.

But just 426 teachers were recruited to the various training schemes and, by the November 2016 cut-off point, only 49 of them were in employment.

The DfE also revealed that it paid out £584,775 in grant funding for the scheme. So by November it had cost the taxpayer nearly £12,000 for every teacher who was back working in the classroom.

A new pilot scheme – the Returners Engagement Programme – has since been set up that will only pay out the bulk of the money for training once returners have been employed by schools. More than 1,200 former secondary maths, physics and MFL teachers have applied to the new pilot, designed to nudge schools into offering part-time work.

Work-life balance

Derek Boyle, teacher training coordinator at the Bromley Schools Collegiate Scitt (school-centred initial teacher training scheme), has participated in, and encountered problems with, both pilots.

He says it was difficult for schools to employ teachers from the first pilot because of the number of requests for flexible working.

Commenting on the Returners Engagement Programme pilot, Mr Boyle says that many would-be returners need significant training before schools will employ them, and so cannot take part.

“It’s a brave attempt to sort out the problems of getting returners back into the classroom,” he says. “But there does need to be a national strategy about how to encourage people back into the profession.

“There are different groups of returners. Some been have out of teaching for less than three years and have taught in England and are used to the English education system. Some have been out for more than three years and they have different needs.

“Then there are people with QTS through mutual registration, people from European countries who have QTS but have never taught in England – the returners programme is trying to catch them all.”

Of the 30 people who were referred to the Bromley Schools Collegiate, only one or two were ready to be employed by schools and so were able to take part. Of the remainder, Mr Boyle adds: “These people are keen, but they haven’t got the skills. We’re going to devise our own programme to help these groups come back into the workforce flexibly.”

Under the Returners Engagement Programme, providers are paid a flat rate of £2,000 to set up the programme, then a further £1,500 per returner to cover any training once the returner has been employed. By the end of last term, 20 schools were participating and there were 1,251 applicants, according to data released under a FOI request.

Some schools and trainees in the Supporting Returning Teachers scheme used a programme run by Tes Institute

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