Focus on recruitment schemes that will make a difference, ministers urged

A Schools Week FOI revealed a government scheme to recruit armed forces veterans has tanked

A Schools Week FOI revealed a government scheme to recruit armed forces veterans has tanked

Ministers have been urged to focus on schemes that will shift the dial in the recruitment crisis – rather than on “pitifully small” projects that do not “begin to scratch the surface”.

The broadside from Pepe Di’Iasio, the new general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, comes after DfE spending on various smaller recruitment drives raised eyebrows. 

One such venture will see the Scouts develop “teaching skills” as part of attaining their badges under a scheme to boost flagging recruitment by “inspiring the next generation of teachers”.

As first reported by Schools Week, the Scout Association has won a contract worth up to £129,000 over three years to provide 40,000 “explorers” – those aged 14 to 18 – with the “skills and knowledge they need to consider pursuing a career in teaching”. 

The Department for Education will work with the Scouts to “create age-appropriate activities that inspire young people to consider a career in teaching by linking to relevant badges and awards”. But it has clarified that there are currently no plans for a teaching badge.

‘Need to get on propaganda parade’

The new partnership was scoffed at during a Westminster Education Forum webinar on the “next steps” for initial teacher training in England on Monday. 

Sir Andrew Carter, chief executive at South Farnham Educational Trust and author of the 2015 review of ITT, said the initiative “sounds a bit ridiculous”.

However, he added: “I do think we need to go on a little bit of a propaganda parade to tell everybody [teaching] is a great job. 

 “Let’s get onto the television, onto the radios, put up some banners about how great it is. Not talk about workload all the time. We must talk about workload, but let’s not wash all our linen in public.”

Meanwhile, a freedom of information request by Schools Week revealed that another government scheme, to recruit armed forces veterans, has tanked. 

The £40,000 bursaries were rolled out from September 2018 in a bid to entice ex-service personnel to retrain as a teachers.

The bursaries replaced the Troops to Teachers undergraduate teacher training programme and are available to veterans who enrol on an eligible undergraduate ITT course.

At the time, former education secretary Gavin Williamson claimed that “our incredible troops have unrivalled life experiences and world-class skills that will motivate and inspire a generation of children in classrooms across the county”.

However, just 12 veterans received the bursaries since 2019, at a cost of £420,000 if they all complete their courses.

‘Pitiful schemes don’t scratch surface’

Di’Iasio said: “It’s right that attention is given to recruiting teachers from other careers and backgrounds, but pitifully small schemes such as this do not even begin to scratch the surface of what is required.”

He highlighted that just half of the required number of trainee secondary teachers were recruited last year, amid “huge shortages of teachers in many different subject areas”.

Pepe DiIasio

He added: “Only by taking major steps to improve pay and reduce workload can teaching be brought more into line with other graduate professions and staff recruited in the numbers required by schools and colleges.

“Parents might rightly be asking what we are: where on earth is the urgency from government on teacher recruitment and retention?”

The DfE is planning to update its 2019 recruitment and retention strategy.

A department spokesperson said the Scouts initiative would “raise awareness of teaching as a potential career choice for young people, helping to build a pipeline of future candidates for initial teaching training”.

They added that they were “proud” of the veteran scheme, saying the FOI response does not “tell the full story” as it only includes those taking the undergraduate route.

The spokesperson said: “Graduate veterans can also complete postgraduate ITT routes and access postgraduate bursaries and scholarships of up to £30,000, meaning the actual number of veterans in the teacher workforce is likely to be significantly higher.”

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