Is technical training for teachers the correct choice?
With the recruitment and retention of teachers being an important challenge for the Department of Education (DfE), Education Secretary Justine Greening recently announced new plans to introduce teacher training apprenticeships in a bid to attract more people into the profession.
In an interview with Schools Week (2017), prior to the Conservative Party Conference, Greening stated that although predominately teaching would remain a “principally graduate profession” she also wants to promote the technical route too. The Government’s drive to establish apprenticeships in the teaching arena is as much about promoting technical training as recruiting teachers.
The Education Secretary expressed the need for people to be able to “combine going into the workplace and pursuing a career with also studying” (Schools Week, 2017).
The Government drive for apprenticeships
While apprenticeships are beneficial in many ways both for employers and employees in terms of reducing skill shortages and customising knowledge to specific job role, they also give people an opportunity to increase their skills in paid employment.
Statistics show that over ‘90% of apprentices stay in employment after their scheme ends’ (Chartered Management Institute, 2017), this makes positive reading.
Schools are also included within the governments drive for public sector bodies to employ apprentices. The introduction of the new apprenticeship levy is now a requirement for any business with an annual payroll bill of over £3 million (Gov.UK, 2017).
As schools are funded from Local Authorities they will be over the threshold and therefore must pay 0.5% of their payroll in levy to the government. However, employing apprentices will help schools with the displacement of teaching staff and they will be entitled to an offset allowance, this makes an attractive option for cash strapped schools (NAHT, 2017)
Current teacher training routes
Sir Andrew Carter, who reviewed the government’s review of initial teacher training in 2015, told Schools Week (2017) that any apprenticeship ‘would sit alongside existing routes, including School Direct’.
With School Direct places either being offered as salaried places or trainee teachers being financed by Student Finance will the government’s apprenticeship salary of £3.50 per hour be sufficient enough in attracting potential teacher training apprentices? (Gov.UK, 2017)
At present, the requirement to begin teacher training is an undergraduate degree, which is classed academically at level 6 (UCAS,2017). If a degree is no longer a requirement which level will the new apprenticeships begin? And will this actively lower the standard of teaching within our schools? Inevitably, this would lead to a drop-in status, thus discouraging some potential applicants to choose a more prestigious career.
Perhaps a hierarchy would be established between teachers with degrees and those without?
Is the Government looking from the wrong perspective?
Perhaps the government is considering the issue of teacher training and retention from the wrong perspective. Instead of looking at new approaches to teacher training would their efforts not be better placed retaining the already adequately trained teachers leaving the profession?
Statistics show the number of teachers leaving the profession ‘within one year of qualifying’ stands at 10% and ‘30% of teachers leave within five years’ (House of Commons Education Committee, 2016-17). With ‘the cost to central government and schools of training’ standing at ‘£700 million each year’ (House of Commons Education Committee, 2016-17) it would be much more cost effective to improve the retention rate than continue to train new teachers.
In a survey carried out by the Association for Teachers and Lecturers showed a statistic of 76% of NQT stating they have considered leaving teaching because their high workload, which has led to poor health and feeling undervalued.
The House of Commons Education Committee report on the recruitment and retention of teachers (2016-17) concluded on the need to ‘focus more resource on evidence-based policies to improve the retention of high-quality teachers’ and to encourage school leaders to ‘carry out systematic exit interview’ to understand staff turnover and if any interventions could help retain high quality staff.
There is no straightforward answer to the teacher shortage in the UK.
However, I believe our attention should be directed at retaining our already trained teachers and supporting them within the workplace. Only then will we ultimately see the number of teachers stabilise within our schools.