Greening: Teaching will cease to be only for university graduates


Teaching will cease to exist as a university graduate-only profession under Conservative plans for a new degree-equivalent apprenticeship route to QTS, Justine Greening has confirmed, in a major shift in ministerial thinking.

The education secretary wants higher apprenticeships to be seen as equivalent to university degrees, and envisages them working as a route into teaching, even for those who have never set foot in a higher education institution.

In an interview with Schools Week ahead of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Greening discussed the plans for the first time.

She claimed teaching would remain a “principally graduate profession”, but that she wanted a technical route to exist too.

For her, this is as much about parity of esteem for vocational education as it is about teacher training. She wants a higher level of technical study to be available to learners in most careers, and teaching is no exception.

There are lots of reasons why technical education has not been at the level that we have wanted for our country

“A lot of people increasingly want to be able to combine going into the workplace and pursuing a career with also studying,” she said.

“I think there are lots of reasons why technical education has not been at the level that we have wanted for our country. One of them is that people who want to see their education through to a high level haven’t really seen that ladder in technical education, and that’s why we’re try to do is start to build it up, right to a degree apprenticeship level.”

Greening’s comments will likely set her at odds with teaching unions.

A recent poll of over 750 teachers by Teacher Tapp found 82 per cent of teachers believed the profession should remain “graduate only”.


Questions hang over teaching apprenticeships

The jury is also still out on teaching apprenticeships, with outstanding questions about the quality of training, and pay and conditions.

The minimum salary for apprentices in their first year of training is £3.50 per hour, which be a substantial cost-saving for cash-strapped schools and a serious undercut of current salaries.

Will schools be able to keep staff on the minimum or unqualified teacher salaries for all their years of training, for example? Will the one day of off-the-job training every week that apprenticeships currently require be enough to create brilliant teachers?

There are also questions about how these apprenticeships will be accredited. If they are run by universities and have the same content as a BA in education, will teachers inundate the apprenticeship route to avoid exorbitant tuition fees, leaving university departments threadbare or facing closure?

These are not questions Greening can answer at this stage. She doesn’t want to pre-empt a future announcement on reforms to strengthen QTS by going into too much detail. But her position is clear: teaching will no longer be the sole preserve of university graduates.

“I think we’ve tried to make sure that teaching is a profession that actually can have a really broad group of people able to go into it, and that’s why we’ve looked at how a teaching apprenticeship might work, bringing that sort of thinking to it,” she said.

“I’ve been quite clear in my mind that I do think we need to make sure that the profession is highly regarded and is seen as a high-status profession.”

Her views on teacher training, though important, are unlikely to be at the top of the agenda for her conference speech on Sunday. Reforms to QTS, first promised in the last government’s now-defunct education white paper, are still a work in progress.


A focus on alternative provision

Greening’s current preoccupation is with social mobility, not the technicalities of the school system.

One of her first priorities this year is finding a solution to the patchy quality of alternative provision, an issue Schools Week has highlighted in a recent series of hard-hitting investigations. She hints that more be will be revealed on this at the Manchester conference over the weekend.

“Children who end up in alternative provision, in some cases get an amazing amount of attention and success in helping them get on track, but in other cases don’t at all,” she admits. “I don’t think we can ignore the varying outcomes for children who end up in alternative provision.”

I think there can be a tendency perhaps for people to see school improvement as a single journey

Greening says she wants to bring forward proposals to lift the standards of alternative provision. In designing these proposals, the government will learn from existing best practice.

She is not the first politician in her position to announce such a move, but given the mounting pressure to improve pupil referral units, her pledge is particularly timely. The education select committee, chaired by the former skills minister Robert Halfon, is to investigate the matter this term, so Greening needs to act fast.

She feels “very strongly” that alternative provision needs to improve: “Those children get one shot at their education, and it’s got to be an outstanding one.”

In the short term, though, her ambition is to see a good school place on offer for every child. She seems relatively unfazed by ongoing issues with the academies programme, but she is keen to ensure that multi-academy trusts are not allowed to expand beyond their capacity in future.

Does Greening envisage a repeat of the situation with the Wakefield City Academy Trust, which has just had to hand back 21 of its schools? She is unmoved; schools face challenges “for a variety of reasons”, she says, insisting that “as ever in life, there’s never one single policy that solves every single issue”.

“I think there can be a tendency perhaps for people to see school improvement as a single journey. So a school will go from being not good enough to suddenly better, and somehow then everything is fine,” she said.

“Actually, there’s more that needs to be done to help schools sustain that, and all schools in the end need to be looking at school improvement. We need to look rigorously at the capacity of MATs to deliver the existing portfolio of schools that they look after, as well as their ability to expand.”

But what if they don’t have that capacity?

“They certainly won’t be expanding.”

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  1. Please Sir, why should we bother to do all this learning, come to school regularly, and be good, when we can fail all our exams and still get a job as a teacher?

    Please Sir, would I be better off as a teacher or a road sweeper? I think road sweepers get minimum wage but I understand teachers only get £3.50 per hour.

    Please Sir, where have you gone?

  2. The opportunity to enable a diverse range of role models – teachers – who have experience beyond university is a welcome thing. There is a need for people to fully understand how and who could access apprenticeship learning. It is essential that the standards for QTS are at a high level, this proposal does not seem to seek to erode that. People with many of the skills and knowledge the teaching profession currently needs and asks for could be enabled by this type of approach to switch into teaching careers. I think The ultimate question for any professional ought to be can they do the job required at the time?…not so much what journey did they take to get there.

    • No one seriously believes this is about raising standards. In what profession would it be improved by having people with less knowledge doing it? It’s about the prospect of saving yet more money, about diversification i.e. ‘bums on seats’, and about undermining the status of a profession that the political vandals find so odious. Anti-intellectual, and all very predictable.

      • Exactly. All that will happen is the govt will use it to undermine the future teachers T&C’s, save money on degree courses (their main aim) and push people onto courses that are cheap and cheerful, and lead to abuse (poor quals, expensive courses, low standard of training) of those seeking to become teachers. As others have said, these new quals will not be taught in established institutions which the govt has shown it has no time for, but by fly by night ‘private education establishments’ that have a poor record already. There is nothing this govt cannot reduce to dust for ideological reasons..

  3. Rachel Richards

    In August 2016 my family and I moved to Scotland. As a teacher with a 2i degree in my subject, a Masters, QTS, Leading from the Middle, Leadership Pathways and 18 experience inc being HOD I thought the transition would be relatively easy as I wanted to return being a mainscale without extra responsibility. But NO. The GTCS didn’t recognise any of my qualifications or experience as I had a GTP not a PCGE. I dropped to a probationers salary for a year whilst I completed a PGDE at the same time as teaching. Ridiculous? Yes but Scotland has minimum teaching standards. Crazy when recruitment and retention is so poor but having “teachers” teach with no qualifications totally undermines what the rest of us have to go through. Keep the standards and keep teaching a professional career as we teach all the future professionals.

  4. This is yet another reason the UK is having great difficulty recruiting teachers.The govt seems to want to water teaching down and let people in who should not be getting through the door.No other country does this and in fact some demand that their teachers have degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.They can then boast their systems are among the best in the world.Perhaps the UK govt should try this with training doctors and see the reaction within the country.

  5. Yet another attack on the profession by the Conservatives. Not content with making existing teachers lives a misery with a combination of cuts, regressive, backward thinking education ‘reforms’, endless paper work, and headteachers who are now ‘business managers’ rather than educational standard setters, they are now seeking to water down their T&C’s by new routes.

    They have already tried (and failed) with ‘in school’ teacher training, and now a new plan has obviously been hatched to save money, direct teacher training to new ‘private sector’ startups (which offer poor quals and fail regularly with tax payers money ‘vanishing’) and ultimately offer lower paid, less well trained teachers to schools.

    Why so sceptical you ask? Because the current govt does nothing for ‘good’ reasons. Everything is done with cynical intent, and without proper investigation into how it will work, or thought beyond saving a few quid. I’d love them to shock me by investing a fortune in this idea, offering the courses to established colleges with funding to match, and have rigid, well thought out quals with high standards expected at the end, but their track record says this is 100% not going to happen.

  6. Nicola Jack

    I’ve worked in two schools where individuals with good ‘A’ levels have been supported to achieve a subject degree and then taken on as GTP trainees. In both cases they worked as teaching assistants, largely in the department of their degree subject, while they completed a part time degree. This worked well and had quite a lot of features of an apprenticeship……though it was an informal arrangement and the trainee was expected to pay their own way through university.

  7. L McGowan

    Just because you have a degree doesnt make you a good Teacher. I have come from the corperate world into a school for a change of career. I started as a TA in a Maths department and was shocked at the enormous differences in teaching ability across the spectrum. It’s shocking how utterly bad some are. I welcome the move as I know I would make an awesome Maths teacher but even now, I teach -no sorry I cant say that- I “instruct” pupils Maths but am not allowed to be called a Teacher or get paid as much as a Teacher. There are a lot of people out there who have life experience, intelligence, and are passionate about helping children in a very pressure induced educational system and aren’t allowed to call themselves a Teacher. It’s madness.