Consider ‘golden handcuff’ bursaries, major ITT providers say

Six key findings from the education committee hearing on recruitment and retention crisis

Six key findings from the education committee hearing on recruitment and retention crisis

Two major teacher training providers have suggested government explore whether ‘golden handcuff’ bursaries would keep more teachers in the classroom.

Initial teacher training (ITT) providers gave evidence to the education committee on the teacher recruitment and retention crisis this morning.

The cross-party committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into the sector’s job dilemma.

It follows predictions that the Department for Education is on course to recruit less than half of required secondary teachers next year.

Here’s what we learned …

1. Teach First ‘optimistic’, but won’t hit target …

Government’s ailing trainee teacher recruitment is predicted to worsen this year.

Teach First, which recruits high-flying graduates, recorded its lowest number of trainees in four years last year. 

Russell Hobby, chief executive at Teach First, said while he is “optimistic” the charity’s trainee numbers will increase this year, “I don’t think I’m going to meet my target”. 

Graduate level interest in teaching “is at the lowest that it’s ever been,” he said, adding that a third of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers now have starting salaries of £40,000. 

Melanie Renowden, chief executive at the government’s new National Institute of Teaching, is “confident” they’ll hit their first intake target. But she said “that has been hard, hard fought”. 

Barriers include the costs of training and the “attractiveness” of teaching, she said, and there is “a lot of demand” for flexibility. 

2. … however relocation grants give boost

Teach First announced last month it would give some trainees who need to relocate a one-off grant of £2,000 to help with the cost-of-living crisis. 

Hobby said there was a 40 per cent rise in applications in the weeks after. 

He said: “Cash can be a relatively straightforward lever. But when it’s tight though what we need to do is make sure it’s going where it’s needed most. So blanket solutions are hard.” 

Hobby said Teach First had some trainees drop out because “they can’t afford the cost of the petrol to commute now or we’ve had to switch their placement school as a result of that.” 

Dr Jasper Green, head of initial teacher education at the IOE, urged travel costs to placements to be taken into consideration. “That can be a significant cost for students that at the moment isn’t really considered sufficiently”. 

3. Restructure bursaries, consider ‘golden handcuffs’ 

Renowden said evidence shows that bursaries are an effective recruitment tool but “don’t tend to deliver in terms of retention”. 

So “we need to think about structuring of financial incentives as people move into teaching and progress through their early careers” so that it “incentivises them to stay”.

Green questioned whether you needed bursaries as high as £27,000 in some subjects and if this could be instead spread out over more subjects at secondary. 

Committee chair Robin Walker said the government is talking about “golden handcuffs for dentists” in the NHS workforce plan and asked the panel whether this would help in school shortage subjects. 

Hobby said “I would explore it” adding: “If you could target some of this spending to staying three, five, seven years and link it to regional, local hotspots, schools serving low income communities.

“Like if you’ve worked for five years in one of those schools then taking some of that £27k for example and back ending it would I think cover all of these concerns.” 

4. ‘We need to maintain gates to the profession’

Schools Week revealed how training providers had been told by DfE to stop turning away so many applicants amid “significant rejection rates”. 

But Green said the focus needs to be on “quality and not quantity” as otherwise “you’ll store up trouble for later”.

For instance, students “inappropriately admitted” will go into schools and “that will erode further culture in schools and add to workload”.  He added it will lead to higher withdrawal rates.

“I understand the department’s need to recruit more teachers, but I think we need to be careful in relation to just simply opening the doors. 

“We need to be careful that we maintain the gates to the profession, I think that’s really important.” 

5. ‘Low’ awareness of postgrad teaching apprenticeship

Renowden said while awareness of the postgraduate teaching apprenticeship is “improving”, it’s still “relatively low”. 

“That’s both amongst prospective apprentices but also schools and headteachers are not as familiar as we would like them to be that this an available option,” she added.

She said it could remove “financial barriers” that could prevent applicants and has “lots more potential that’s not yet currently being realised, as the numbers remain pretty small overall”. 

6. MATs ‘employing mentors’

Richard Gill, chair of the Teaching School Hubs Council, said a small number of multi-academy trusts are directly employing teaching mentors “who don’t have the distraction of teaching but meet the skills and requirements”. 

They are also “offering those services out in a creative way” for schools that have capacity issues, he added. “It’s a new way of working but it’s a really exciting opportunity”

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  1. Chris Waterman

    I was at the Select Committee meeting and could not understand how upbeat the witnesses sounded – but of course, they are all winners in a field where many fell at the first and second accreditation hurdle.
    The sub-heading uses the word ‘crisis’ but that’s not how the witnesses see it.
    There was talk of ‘cold spots’ – more like the tundra.

  2. E Vine

    Lock in with golden handcuffs = lots of disolutioned teachers just marking time until the cuffs unlock. Typical short term thinking instead of putting right what’s wrong with the way our schools education system doesn’t work.

  3. Mike Dunn

    I have an idea. How about we fund state education properly and pay teachers decent salaries? And maybe stop suggesting that paying them more will inflate the price of groceries?

  4. I do support some kind of golden handcuff bursaries, but we need to be really careful about how we do this. 5 years is a long time. What if you decide in the first year you hate teaching and want to leave the profession fullstop? Surely they shouldn’t be expected to pay the bursary back as its through no fault of their own. If they choose to stay in teaching but go overseas, then they should have to pay the bursary back.