One in five undergraduate trainee teachers don’t qualify

And proportion of postgraduates gaining qualified teacher status hits a five-year low

And proportion of postgraduates gaining qualified teacher status hits a five-year low

27 Jul 2023, 14:14

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New DfE data shows a stark drop in undergrad teacher trainees gaining QTS last year

One in five undergraduate trainee teachers did not gain qualified teacher status (QTS) last year, while the proportion of postgrads qualifying fell to a five-year low.

Department for Education figures for the 2021-22 academic show a higher proportion of trainees failing to qualify than during or before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statistics cover trainees who were awarded, QTS, completed their course but did not qualify and those who left before their course ended.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of leaders’ union ASCL, said teacher shortages “are already at crisis point and it is concerning that the percentage of trainees awarded qualified teacher status has fallen”.

“Work needs to be done to understand the reasons for this fall. It should hopefully serve as a reminder that there is a huge amount of work still to do to solve the recruitment and retention crisis.”

A DfE spokesperson said the data showed “the vast majority of initial teacher training candidates go on to gain QTS and into the important roles in our classrooms.”

Here is what we learned.

1. Fifth of undergrads don’t gain QTS…

In 2021-22, 1,048 (20 per cent) of 5,210 undergraduate trainees were not awarded QTS. This is up from 12 per cent in 2020-21, and 10 per cent in 2018-19.

Trainees who were not awarded QTS are those who either left their course before it ended or did not meet the standards required to qualify.

The DfE said the sharp increase “may in part be due to increased numbers” of people taking up courses during Covid “and consequently more first or second year undergraduates leaving their course before the end”.

2. …and postgrad qualification rates at five-year low

The proportion of postgraduate teacher trainees gaining QTS also fell to its lowest level in five years.

In 2021-22, 29,511 (93 per cent) of 31,747 trainees gained qualified status. This was down from 95 per cent in 2020-21 and 96 per cent in 2019-20.

In 2018-19 and 2017-18, 95 per cent of trainees gained QTS.

Of those who were training to be primary teachers last year, 94 per cent gained QTS, versus 92 per cent of secondary trainees.

3. Computing and physics trainees least likely to qualify

Postgraduate trainees in computing and physics were the least likely to qualify. The proportion who gained QTS was 86 per cent for computing and 87 per cent for physics.

This is despite both subjects being identified as suffering teacher shortfalls and eligible for ITT bursaries of £27,000.

Trainees were most likely to qualify in classics and P.E (97 per cent).

Both courses were hugely oversubscribed in 2021-22. The DfE met its target for classics by 143 per cent and for P.E. by 164 per cent.

4. Employment rates fall for undergrads…

Alongside QTS rates, employment for undergraduates also fell.

Provisional employment rates for 2021-22 suggest 66 per cent of trainees who gained QTS were employed as a teacher in an English state-funded school within 16 months of finishing their training.

This represented a drop of 2 percentage points from 2020-21 (68 per cent) and continued a downward trend from 78 per cent in 2017-18.

Provisional rates were calculated by matching ITT trainee data to school workforce data from the following year. But the DfE said it did “not fully capture” how many trainees went into employment because some had not started in time in order to be recorded.

Revised figures are due to be calculated when the next school workforce census is taken in November.

5. …and languish for postgrads

Meanwhile, rates of employment for postgraduates remained below 2017-18 levels, when the data was first produced.

In 2021-22, three-quarters of trainees who gained QTS were provisionally recorded as teaching in a state-funded school within 16 months after their training finished.

This was a small increase of two percentage points from the previous year, but lower than in 2017-18, when four-fifths of trainees gaining QTS were in employment.

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  1. I wonder if the low retention rate at the itt stage is due to the student teachers being able to collect the bursary and effectively run away without repayment at the end of the year? There are a number of trainees who pass through my school itt and state they are only there saving for a gap year / to return to a family in a different county / country and are using it to save. There is no claw back mechanism to ensure that the candidates eligible foe these bursaries actually take up paid teaching roles after training, which would help to focus on entrants to the profession coming in for the right reasons. Of course, doing this would then mean looking at attrition rates among mid to late career teachers and looking at the higher end of the payscale, something this government seems stoicly adverse to doing.

  2. wasateacher

    I wonder if so many drop outs are because so many underestimate the hours required to do the job properly and effectively. It was certainly the job that I did with the longest hours and one of the pressures is that, unlike so many jobs, if you feel the odd day off will help, in teacher your days off are fixed by the school holidays. Before becoming a teacher I worked long hours as an office manager in a local charity. If I had had a particularly hard week, I could just take a day off or have a longer lunch break. In teaching this is not possible. In my 2nd year as a teacher I was signed off by my gp for 2 weeks – he wanted to sign me off for longer.

  3. What this doesn’t take into account, and which makes the situation a whole lot worse, is that a lot of undergraduate trainees leave before the end of the course, so are not counted in the “didn’t qualify” statistics. My daughter recently left a Primary Ed degree after completing Year 2, by which time her course, which had started with 58 students was down to 22. That number will, of course, be even lower by the beginning of what would have been her Year 3, as there will be others who make the decision to leave over the summer, as there were last year. And then making it worse again, there will be those who do qualify, but decide not to go into teaching. Out of the 58 who began her course, there will probably be only around about 20 who qualify, and possibly 5-10 of those won’t enter the profession, which is what happened with my friend’s daughter’s Primary Ed course at a different university. That’s the reality on the ground, which is a lot worse than the headline figure.