Government plans ‘super SCITT’ for MFL teacher training crisis

Government plans 'super SCITT' for MFL teacher training crisis

A “super” school-led scheme to train language teachers is the latest government plan to ease staff shortages.

Schools Week understands teaching schools and universities have been approached to create a “super SCITT” [school-centred initial teacher training].

The government would encourage teaching schools, of which there are more than 600, to focus on training language teachers.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership has asked universities if they would support the teaching schools.

More modern foreign language (MFL) teachers are needed with the planned introduction of the compulsory English Baccalaureate (EBacc), in which every pupil currently in the first year of secondary school must study English, maths, science, history or geography and a language until they are 16.

The government wants at least 90 per cent of pupils across the country to sit these subjects. Currently, just 39 per cent do.

Meeting this demand will require an extra 3,500 language teachers, according to research from Education Datalab.

But in the past four years the government has failed to meet its recruitment target for language teachers. In 2015, one in ten places was unfilled.

In response, the Department for Education has set up multiple teams to look at what can be done to improve take-up.

A government spokesperson said its white paper was “committed to supporting the expansion of SCITT-led training” and there was a “particular focus on covering priority subjects”.

He added: “We are looking at the possibility of new subject-specific ITT hubs and will announce more in due course.”

So far the idea has received a lukewarm reception, especially from universities, that have criticised the government policy to move to school-led training.

But despite government incentives to the contrary, universities are still the preferred training route for language teachers. Last year, 62 per cent of trainees were on a higher education route. Just 80 people started their training with a SCITT, 6 per cent of the overall total.

A university source told Schools Week that while their organisation wanted to be involved in a language hub they would need to make investments in staff. However, uncertain conditions around funding meant that they did not know “from one year to the next” if new people could be employed.

Becky Allen, (pictured), Datalab director and author of the original research into language teachers, said the super-hub would only help “if the constraints in the market were the supply of training places, rather than the pool of potential trainees”.

She added: “My concern is that there are insufficient graduates who are willing to train to become language teachers. The SCITT would not address this.”

Allen said a simpler way to increase the number of language teacher trainees would be to raise the number of places available for trainees at universities. Last year they were only granted 88 per cent of the places they requested, with other places reserved for the less popular school-based training routes.

Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed moves to increase the supply of language teachers and offered to work with the government to improve the situation.

“There is a severe shortage of teachers in these subjects, as there is in general, and this will become an even more pressing issue in the near future because of the government’s EBacc target.

“It is absolutely essential that urgent action is taken now to come up with solutions.”