Teacher training

1,300 teacher trainees to miss out on axed top-up courses

Desperate trainees have been left in tears after struggling to secure a place, course providers said

Desperate trainees have been left in tears after struggling to secure a place, course providers said

21 Jun 2024, 12:30

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Cuts to top-up teacher training courses will see 1,300 fewer trainees get additional support, potentially worsening the recruitment crisis.

Schools Week analysis has revealed the extent of the impact of the government decision to scale back the number of subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses it funds.

Desperate trainees have been left in tears after struggling to secure a place, course providers said.

Impact of cuts revealed

SKEs are designed to top up trainee teachers’ subject knowledge. They can be taken prior to or alongside initial teacher training and last between a fortnight and nine months.

James Noble-Rogers
James Noble Rogers

In March, Schools Week revealed that the government had cut the number of courses it funded from 10 to five subjects.

SKE providers are now no longer able to offer free courses for primary maths, D&T, English, biology and RE.

Our figures, obtained through freedom of information, show the government spent £12.8 million to provide the free courses in the last financial year.

Of this, £4.5 million (35 per cent) was spent on 1,300 courses in the subjects now axed.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the cuts could lead to a “reduction in people training in these key subject areas”. Alternatively, trainees are “less likely to complete” their training.

“Or, if they do, [they will] be less secure in their subject knowledge when they enter the classroom,” he added.

Applicants in tears

Since May 31, 15 SKE providers have been removed from the government’s course directory – which lists those offering free courses.

Most of those who responded to our enquiries said this was because they had no places left to offer.

David Childs, head of education at Birmingham City University, said they had “taken the extraordinary step to continue providing unfunded SKEs” in a bid “to prevent a drop in numbers studying PGCEs”.

The free courses will only be offered to people who have applied to do a PGCE there.

A spokesperson for the University of Chichester said it has “had to turn trainees away, including those in shortage subjects such as maths”.

“Despite us being listed as closed on the directory, we continue to be contacted by potential trainee teachers looking for places,” they continued.

“For example, we were phoned by a maths applicant who was in tears because they had contacted 15 SKE providers who were all full.

She told us that she was going to lose her place on a maths PGCE course if she did not complete an SKE course.” 

‘Unexpected increase’

Leicester and Leicestershire SCITT saw “an unexpected increase” after the reductions were announced “as teacher training applicants required to undertake an SKE course needed to start ASAP”.

Its April to September funding allocation was subsequently utilised in “a matter of weeks”.

“It ultimately means we are unable to continue to onboard new SKE students. We have heard from other SKE providers that they are in a similar position.

“Our biggest concern is that we will lose trainee teachers from the profession, as they struggle to access these vital courses, and this is something that we all need to avoid.”

The SCITT noted that the DfE was liaising with providers who have used all their funding so they can be removed from the directory “to make it clearer to trainee teachers which [ones] can still offer” a course.

The DfE said there are now 468,700 full-time teachers in the system, an increase of 300 since last year.

Steps have been taken to address support for early career teachers and professional development for educators at all stages of their career, the department added.

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