Could new retention plan tackle 'bursary tourism'?

The government plans to stagger trainee teacher bursary payments in a bid to keep staff in the classroom.

Those working in disadvantaged schools will also get more.

It is hoped the shake-up will end “bursary tourism”. Schools Week revealed last year at least £14 million had been spent on bursaries for graduates in shortage subjects who then left the classroom.

The teacher recruitment and retention strategy pledged a “fundamental shift” in bursary policy – with 40 per cent of bursary spend in phased subjects to be moved into retention payments.

The bursaries will be modelled on the phased bursary for maths, introduced last year, which offers maths recruits tax-free payments of £20,000 in their training year and then £5,000 in their third and fifth years of teaching, rising to £7,500 for those in more challenging schools.

The new payments will also be weighted to make sure teachers working in “more challenging schools” receive higher bursaries.

James Noble-Rogers, the executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the decision was a “sensible one, as it will discourage bursary tourism and encourage people to remain in the classroom”.

In 2016, the National Audit Office warned that almost £1 billion had been spent on bursaries for new teachers without any proper evaluation of their effectiveness as a recruitment tool.

However, the Department for Education has yet to announce which subjects will receive the phased bursaries, or their value.

The strategy also includes plans to bring the initial teacher training application process “into the 21st century” by creating an “easy-to-use one-stop application system”. Currently, potential teachers have to navigate three separate systems to register interest, find and then apply for a course.

The new system, which will include “bespoke support and advice” from experienced teachers and headteachers and a “state of the art customer relationship management system”, is designed to work alongside the Get Into Teaching website and the Find Teacher Training service, which launched in October.

Becky Francis, director of the UCL Institute of Education, welcomed the move, adding the old system had “clearly hampered recruitment. Clarity and simplification is urgently needed.”