The government will double the number of teachers completing their training in schools and speed-up reductions in university-based places, new figures reveal.
Figures released by the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) last week show that the government estimates almost 30,000 trainees will take places on School Direct – in which participants are recruited by and work in a school throughout their training – in the academic year 2016/17.
In 2014, there were just 15,254 places allocated to that route. This autumn’s figures show 22,429 places allocated.
This contrasts with university-led teacher training, such as traditional PGCE courses, where allocations have dropped year-on-year. This year 23,928 places have been funded; next year the government anticipates just 20,745, a drop of 13 per cent.
Carol Jones, school specialist for leadership and teacher professionalism at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), welcomed the move towards more school-based training, but had some concerns.
“We are pleased the government has increased School Direct places because we are really struggling with teacher supply.
“However, there needs to be better co-ordination across a fragmented system . . . a cohesive relationship between the number of teachers in a school, the number of places available and the allocation.”
Ms Jones said the complicated school-based provision – with several School Direct routes and complicated bursaries for different subjects – resulted in headteachers telling ASCL that they did not understand the system and that they were concerned potential applicants did not either.
Last week, Schools Week reported how new rules meant schools will have national minimum levels of recruitment to ensure “moderate growth”. This could result in university recruitment being capped so that the minimum number of trainees through the school-led route can be reached.
It was also said at a conference in London this week on the teacher workforce that, for the first time, university provider numbers had been cut in direct proportion to increases in other training routes such as Teach First.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of university think tank million+, said the allocations suggested ministers were happy to ignore evidence from other countries that university-led education departments were the key to ensuring teachers entered the profession with high-level academic and professional qualifications and experience of professional practice in a variety of settings.
“Universities in those countries also underpin expectations that teachers will engage in the career-long professional development that is crucial excellent teaching and to retention.”
When challenged by Ms Tatlow at a Conservative conference event, schools minister Nick Gibb said he hoped universities and schools could find ways to work closer in the future but maintained his preference for a school-led teacher training system.
When asked to comment on the shifting figures, a DfE spokesperson said: “A record number of schools will be involved in delivering School Direct for the academic year 2016/17 — with more than 9,100 lead and partner schools, up more than 700 from 2015/16 — showing the growing success of the programme.”