Ambition Institute plans apprenticeships so schools can dip into £200m levy pot


A teacher development charity is in talks to deliver new apprenticeships for teachers and leaders, including chief executives, in a bid to open up over £200 million in untapped funding.

The Ambition Institute, launched this week after the merger of Ambition School Leadership and the Institute for Teaching, confirmed it is in discussions with the government about developing more “education-specific apprenticeship standards”. The organisation also wants to become an apprenticeship provider.

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017, schools are thought to have paid more than £225 million into a central training pot. Some academy trusts have access to levy pots of over £1 million each, it is understood.

But many schools have struggled to find ways to claw the funding back, partly because of a paucity of courses specific to the education sector.

Melanie Renowden, the Ambition Institute’s interim chief executive, said her organisation is one of a number lobbying the government for new courses.

Schools Week understands leadership unions NAHT and ASCL, some leading academy trusts and the Chartered College of Teaching are also involved.

“Given schools that meet the criteria are paying into the apprenticeship levy, we think it’s right that there should be education-specific apprenticeship standards, and that’s really limited at the moment,” Renowden said.

Ambition is concerned that there aren’t “discreet apprenticeship standards for the tiers of teaching”.

“It’s not recognising that MAT CEO or headteacher is different to teacher,” she told Schools Week. “So if you’re a MAT paying into the levy…then you’re very limited in how you can deploy the levy.

“Given that we know that educator development is the thing that has the biggest impact on outcomes for children, being able to deploy that resource on developing educators at all stages in their career seems like a fantastic opportunity for schools.”

There is at present only one teaching apprenticeship, which is at postgraduate level and aimed at new entrants to the profession only.

And although some apprenticeship routes for academy and school leaders do already exist, Ambition believes these are too “limited”. It wishes instead to provide apprenticeships across all its training areas – which cover teaching, school leadership and system leadership, the latter including trust chief executives.

However, the use of apprenticeship levy funding to train high-ranking employees has not been without controversy after the policy prompted a boom in the number of masters of business administration (MBA) courses.

The use of the funding for such courses is seen by some as state subsidy of training for top-earning employees.

Just last week, skills minister Anne Milton (pictured) raised similar concerns, telling Schools Week’s sister paper FE Week: “What sticks in people’s throats is people on 100 grand a year and the state subsidising their MBA, or whatever.”

In its recruitment and retention strategy, released in January, the government pledged to make it possible for schools to spend their apprenticeship levy to develop staff in new “distinct roles”, for example, in multi-academy trusts.

The new national professional qualifications will include cover assessment, behaviour management, subject and curriculum expertise, pedagogy and teacher developer.

A spokesperson for the Institute for Apprenticeships, which approves new apprenticeship standards, said: “We want to support schools to use their levy funding. We are working with the Ambition Institute and other organisations to see what can be achieved through existing standards and beyond that.”

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