The government has set aside £22.6 million to help small schools support their staff to complete free national professional qualifications (NPQs) – suggesting take-up has not been as popular as hoped.
The Department for Education committed £184 million last year to provide 150,000 NPQs over the next three years. The free courses are available to teachers and leaders in all schools.
Participation data for the NPQs, released on Monday, shows that as of April 20, 29,153 NPQs had been started since autumn last year.
Although government “expected that the number of confirmed NPQ starts will increase later in the academic year”.
Government has now set aside £22.6 million for the Targeted Support Fund to provide a £200 grant for each participating teacher or leader from schools with 600 or fewer pupils.
This will ensure “that where a child lives has no bearing on the quality of teaching they receive”.
Under current guidance, teachers and leaders employed in state-funded schools and state-funded 16 to 18 organisations can access the NPQ training scholarships.
But in another sign the scheme might not have been as popular as first thought, the free NPQs are being thrown open to other settings including young offender institutions, hospital schools and independent special schools.
Schools minister Robin Walker said the government wants to “make sure” teachers are “supported to be the very best they can be, so that every single pupil – wherever they live – is taught by an excellent teacher”.
From autumn 2022, two further NPQs will also be available; one for leading literacy and another for early years leadership.
The government had originally only planned to offer scholarships in four of the six new NPQs to staff in the most deprived schools.
However this was changed in October, opening all six programmes up to all teachers and leaders.
Take-up of the training has been most popular in London, where over 5,000 courses were started. Meanwhile, teachers in the north-east started just 1,561 courses.
Teachers can take multiple courses but the data does not reveal the number of unique participants.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the support but warned the union remained “gravely concerned about the fact that there are not enough teachers in the first place.
“Many schools experience significant difficulties as a result of teacher shortages, and this particularly affects those schools which face the greatest challenges.”
The National Foundation for Educational Research released its annual Teacher Labour Market report in March, warning “significant” teachers supply challenges are re-emerging after two years of Covid-related boom in applications.
The government also announced today the School Led Development Trust (SLDT) – a consortium of four academy trusts – will run the National Institute of Teaching.