Tuition fees should be waived for trainee teachers, say teacher trainers – who argue students are being dissuaded from becoming teachers by their parents because of fears of debt.
In a joint letter to Damian Hinds, education secretary, school and university teacher training providers say that graduates are now leaving university after having accumulated three years of tuition fee debts at £9,000 a year and significant maintenance loans – deterring them from the prospect of paying for teacher training and supporting themselves through it.
“With a relatively small number of exceptions, even those trainees receiving bursaries will be expected to accumulate more debt to become qualified or, at the very least, forgo the opportunity to embark on alternative salaried careers,” the joint letter from the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, the Chartered College of Teaching and the Teaching Schools Council states.
“We have received reports of people being dissuaded from entering the profession, or being counselled by parents and others from doing so, for this very reason.”
The letter goes on to ask Mr Hinds to consider waiving tuition fees for all those on postgraduate initial teacher education programmes.
The call comes after statistics from admissions body UCAS show that the number of people applying for teacher training by March 2018 has dropped by 19 per cent compared to numbers applying by March 2017.
The letter says that it welcomes the government’s moves to address the supply crisis in teaching – including relaxing the skills test requirements and introduction of retention payments for maths teachers. But that there are still “negative perceptions” about the status of teaching as a career and the cost of training.
As well as waiving tuition fees, the teacher training providers have suggested teacher shortages are addressed by:
* the government enhancing the status of teaching by taking steps towards making teaching an all Master’s profession through giving all teachers an entitlement to continuing professional development
* making the application process simpler, and
* replacing the skills tests with on-course assessments of literacy and numeracy skills.
Last year, a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute called for the system of bursaries to be replaced with “forgiveable fees” – a system in which trainees who stay in teaching had a portion of their student loan written off.