Recruitment and retention

Now Teach warns ‘axing funding will narrow trainee teacher pool’

The charity will stop recruiting for 2025, unless it can secure philanthropic funding

The charity will stop recruiting for 2025, unless it can secure philanthropic funding

The government risks narrowing its pool of potential trainee teachers by slashing funding for Now Teach, its chief executive warned, as new data showed its recruits are more likely to stay in teaching.

The charity announced at the weekend that the government was not renewing its £1.4 million-a-year contract to attract experienced career-changers into teaching, despite ministers having missed secondary recruitment targets by 50 per cent this year.

A final cohort, with 123 trainees signed up so far and almost 100 more having started an application since news of the cuts broke, starts in September. They will complete the two-year programme as planned, before the contract expires in October 2026.

The charity will stop recruiting for 2025, unless it can secure philanthropic funding.

Asked if cutting funding would narrow the pool of talent it recruits from, CEO Graihagh Crawshaw-Sadler said: “I think that is a risk.”

She added: “I think due to the fact we’ve had career changes with significant professional experience joining the profession, wanting to talk about it – those much needed good news stories, people describing the hope and the humour that they have found in their new identity as a teacher.”

Formed in 2016, the charity has helped more than 1,000 older people retrain. While it is not a teacher training provider, it helps recruit and supports career changers.

The CEO added the charity has achieved “significant” press coverage in part due to its founder, the ex-Financial Times journalist Lucy Kellaway.

Analysis reveals high high over 40s retention rate

“I think that’s what proves the value for money bit,” she said.

“I know there have been discussions around the cost per hire, but in addition to that, there’s been this absolute freebie of amazing marketing that’s created a shift in the sector.”

Now Teach has also provided analysis of retention rates. It used school workforce data that had been broken down by age by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

It found that 91 per cent of over 40s who qualified with Now Teach between 2017 and 2022 remained in the profession a year after achieving qualified teacher status.

This is compared to 61 per cent of new teachers in that age category overall. 

After four years, 63 per cent of those Now Teach cohorts were still teaching, compared to 50 per cent in the wider country.

Crawshaw-Sadler said the increased retention was down to its content and opportunities for its teachers to “come together and learn and focus”, as well as its support for teachers “when they’re wobbling or when they’re having a bad day”.

Now Teachers also value “this sense of the club. They’ve given up one professional identity, but being part of the Now Teach network becomes a very important part of their second professional identity.”

Now Teach needs philanthropic backing

The charity’s funding will drop by £700,000 from September. It is talking to philanthropists about providing “bridge” funding until potential future government income can be found.

Damian Hinds, the schools minister, told MPs this week, government was “re-assessing the best ways” to “grow” the number of career-changers coming into teaching to “make sure we go about it in the very best and most productive way”.

“We are continuing with our career changers programme. We’re not axing Now Teach. We’re not re-procuring it, so we’re not extending it again,” Hinds told MPs.

But he added that “to put it in perspective, it’s about 200 to 250 people in a typical year out of about 7,000 career changers coming into teaching”.

But Kellaway said: “Assuming you will get the same results when moving money away from successful, scalable, projects is specious reasoning. 

“Education is an investment and the relatively small amounts the DfE put into Now Teach paid off in spades.”

‘We need people to consider changing to teaching career’

Politicians including Lord Blunkett and Baroness Morgan have criticised the axing.

Catherine McKinnell

Cat McKinnell, the shadow schools minister, said “more than ever we need people to consider changing to a career in teaching. Fourteen years in, the Tory government is still finding fresh ways to fail our children.”

Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, also backed the charity.

While nearly a quarter of Teach First’s cohort this year were career-changers, 93 per cent of those were under 40. Now Teach’s average age is 47.

Now Teach has been “the most effective organisation for attracting and supporting late career switchers into the classroom, and that they remain the best organisation to keep doing this,” he added.

Now Teach said it has recruited 107 per cent of its DfE contract total since 2019.

Kellaway added this was “evidence that a specialised support for career changers ensures they sign up, train and stay teaching”. 

“Funnelling all potential teachers through an advice service may work if you are smashing targets – but that simply isn’t happening across teacher recruitment or retention.”

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