Further calls to address the teacher supply crisis

Joint letter – issued by organisations with  interest in the recruitment, training and professional development of teachers – calls for Damian Hinds to take action and tackle teacher shortages

The National Association for School-Based Teacher Trainers, Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, Chartered College of Teaching and Teaching Schools Council have joined forces to call for Damian Hinds to take action about teacher shortages.

In a letter to the education secretary, the group shared their concerns and made a series of new recommendations to reduce teacher shortages.

While they welcomed measures already taken to address the supply crisis – for example, the removal of caps on most recruitment to ITT programmes; the relaxation of skills test requirements; efforts to reduce teacher workload; the continued payment of ITT bursaries; and the introduction of some retention incentives – and additional proposals, as outlined in the Strengthening QTS proposals, the cautioned that these proposals need to be implemented with the proper funding and support for teachers needs to be provided through CPD. 

In the letter the group outlines what they see as some of the main reasons for the supply crisis – demographic, economic, negative perceptions cost of training, concerns about workload and doubts about teaching’s status as a profession are also having an impact – and also shares the work being undertaken by the organisations involved in teacher recruitment, training and professional development to stoke interest in the profession and break down some of the barriers listed. 

In the letter, the group made the following suggestions, to be added to the measures already being taken:

Funding: We are now in the second year of graduates completing three year degree programmes having accumulated annual tuition fee debts of £9,000, as well as significant maintenance loans. 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. 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. Consideration should be given to waiving tuition fees for all those on postgraduate ITE programmes. Funds used for bursaries could be used to directly fund ITT, as could the resulting administrative savings and the money currently loaned to trainee teachers that may never be paid back.

Enhance the status of teaching by: giving all teachers, especially those at the beginning of their careers, an entitlement to (and expectation to utilise) CPD, and taking steps towards teaching becoming an all Master’s qualified profession; and subsidise membership of professional bodies and subject associations for teachers early in their career to ensure they have access to professional learning. These measures would help with both recruitment and retention.

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Simplifying the way in which the different routes into teaching are described: These can appear unnecessarily confusing. There are, in effect, just three main qualification routes: undergraduate; postgraduate; and employment-based. Attempts to explain the difference between the various sub-categories (many of which overlap) that fall under each of these headings has only served to over-complicate what could be described in relatively straightforward terms. An example of how this could be done is attached as an annex to this letter.

Improve the application process: UCAS systems often appear cumbersome and can be slow at responding to changing needs. For example, we have been pressing for years for scope to share applications amongst different providers within the same ITE partnerships, and yet such an apparently straightforward idea is only now being seriously considered by UCAS and DfE.

Replace skills tests with on-course assessments of literacy and numeracy skills: This would release £15m for investment in CPD, fee-waivers and other measures, speed up the recruitment process and remove a barrier to the profession. It would not entail any kind of ‘dumbing-down’ as the robustness of on-course assessments could be checked by Ofsted as part of ITE inspections.

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