teacher training

London secondary schools are the least likely in the country to offer at least one initial teacher training placement, a new survey suggests.

Analysis of a poll of school leaders by the National Foundation for Educational Research reveals significant divides between schools in how many placements they provide.

The think tank also warns schools can “free ride” by relying on staff trained elsewhere, arguing better incentives and extra cash are needed to tackle shortages of placements highlighted in the recent ITT review.

It comes amid growing alarm over reforms proposed by the review, including a rapidly rolled-out accreditation scheme which training providers warn poses a “catastrophic risk” to teacher supply.

Postcode lottery

The study found secondary schools in London even offered fewer placements than their counterparts in other large cities.

77.6 per cent of London secondaries offer at least one ITT place, compared to 91.1 per cent in small, non-coastal areas and 93.3 per cent in the average large city.

But in large cities and small towns and villages alike, more schools said they had reduced placements than expanded them in 2020-21 compared to two years earlier.

The report also found other divides, with the average secondary academy offering more than six placements, whereas the average maintained secondary offered 4.7.

92.1 per cent of single-academy trust secondaries offered at least one placement, compared to 87.3 per cent of multi-academy trusts and 83.3 per cent of maintained schools.

Schools with better Ofsted ratings or more affluent pupils also offered more placements.

Differences between regions and school types were more limited at primary level, however.

Covid exacerbating a placement squeeze

The NFER said the pandemic had increased teacher training applications, but simultaneously reduced schools’ willingness to host trainees to reduce visitor numbers on site and potential burdens for existing staff.

Its report said the squeeze on capacity “highlighted a vulnerability that could continue to impact the ITT sector”, with Covid compounding an existing lack of incentives.

teacher recruitmentJack Worth, lead economist at the NFER, said all schools benefited, but only schools offering placements pick up the costs of training new recruits.

“Schools can ‘free-ride’, reaping the benefit from other schools delivering placements,” he argued in an opinion piece for Schools Week today.

40 per cent of primary and 30 per cent of secondary leaders said worries over the “burden” on other staff supporting trainees affected their placement plans in 2020-21.

Providers also told the authors of the government’s ITT review securing placements was “challenging”, and ensuring schools had sufficient mentor capacity and a suitable environment was “sometimes difficult”.

The NFER calls for more financial support and recognition of schools providing placements, more in-house training at multi-academy trust level, and more partnerships between schools.

“Without further policy action to support schools, the current lack of placement and mentor capacity may risk the vision of the Market Review being fully realised,” said Worth.