Teacher trainers have been told they can withhold bursaries of up to £27,000 while waiting for a trainee’s graduate status to be confirmed amid the university marking boycott, Schools Week has learned.
Government guidance was updated last week to ensure that prospective trainees whose undergraduate degrees are delayed can start courses in September.
University and College Union (UCU) members are taking action short of a strike in a dispute over pay, affecting 145 institutions and including a marking and assessment boycott.
Providers were given flexibility to “exercise discretion and review other relevant evidence that would demonstrate confidence” from the university to ensure that graduates could start courses in September.
Predicted grades used to decide bursaries
The Department for Education has also told providers they can use predicted grades to decide whether graduates are entitled to a bursary.
Bursaries of between £15,000 and £27,000 are being offered next year to attract trainees into 10 subjects experiencing shortages, including physics and maths. But they must achieve a 2:2 or above in their degree. Providers receive monthly payments from the DfE based on recruits and pass that on to trainees.
The DfE said it will work with schools and universities that provide ITT to “find appropriate evidence where candidates do not have predicted marks”. However, if providers want to start payments to trainees before confirmation, “this is at their own risk”.
Providers also have the option to “withhold the bursary payments” until confirmation of degree status and classification is known. Payments could then be backdated.
‘Imperative to find more teachers’
One provider, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Schools Week they would not be releasing bursaries until they had degree confirmation as “the risk sits with the providers and the DfE have left it up to providers decide”.
“It really is a tricky one given the imperative to bring more teachers into the profession,” they added.
The cohort potentially affected were also those that had their A-levels cancelled in the summer of 2020 and saw their first year of university hit by lockdowns.
In evidence to the education select committee on the recruitment and retention crisis, the DfE pointed towards bursary hikes working. Their own evidence showed the nine subjects where bursaries were increased this year comprised 70 per cent of all applications, compared with 61 per cent last year.
The government also said it would be “looking at its long-term vision for pay in the teaching profession” after starting salaries rise to £30,000 this September. Ministers have previously said they expect the number of candidates affected by degree delays to be “small”.