Recruitment fears as schools withdraw training placements

A “worryingly high” number of schools have pulled out of offering teacher training placements for the next academic year as they adapt to a post-pandemic world.

Schools are saying that they do not want extra people in classrooms and are reluctant to allow trainees to teach because of the amount of school time pupils have already missed.

Half of the 247 initial teacher training (ITT) providers surveyed by the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) reported their school partners would not participate in training programmes in 2020-21.

It would be a great shame if potentially excellent teachers were turned away because of placement difficulties

However, providers hope any potential disruption may be limited after confirmation yesterday that the Department for Education will extend the relaxation of certain ITT criteria.

Emma Hollis, the association’s executive director, said the survey findings were “worryingly high” at a time of “increasing applications to teaching”.

More than four out of five ITT providers were more concerned about securing enough school placements next year compared to previous years, with 45 per cent of providers having closed, or considering closing, programmes as a result.

The survey included school-centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) providers, School Direct lead schools and higher education institution ITT providers.

James Noble-Rogers, the executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: “At a time when we are experiencing the first significant increase in applications to ITT for many years, it would be a great shame if potentially excellent teachers were turned away because of placement difficulties.”

The government has been called on to provide “encouragement” or, if needed, a “requirement” for schools to “engage in ITT”. NASBTT also says funding for schools to “incentivise” placements and for providers to support additional mentoring should be considered.

A Department for Education spokesperson said they “recognise that working with teacher training providers may be challenging”.

“However, trainee teachers can deliver a number of benefits, including providing schools with additional capacity, and we will continue working with the sector to consider how we can best support the schools and providers to deliver more flexible training opportunities.”

But Schools Week can reveal certain ITT rules will be relaxed next year, including the expectation that trainees teach in at least two schools and meet the standards across the full age and ability range of training.

Removal of the expectation that training cover no fewer than four years has also been extended.

But the coronavirus pandemic has brought some more positive news with UCAS statistics for the month between mid-April and mid-May showing that the number of applicants accepted for places on postgraduate ITT courses rose by about 4,000.

John Howson

John Howson, the founder of TeachVac, said this was an “unprecedented increase”, adding in a blog the “super-tanker that is teacher supply looks as if it is changing course as a result of the pandemic”.

Jack Worth, the schools workforce lead at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said an “increased labour market insecurity” under Covid-19  meant many companies had slowed recruitment, while demand for teacher “will remain comparatively unchanged”.

Therefore, increased applications and places accepted “could represent an encouraging shift in the trend in teacher recruitment”.

But NFER’s annual Teacher Labour Market report, published today, warns secondary recruitment still faced “significant challenges” as “supply is not meeting demand”.

The report found teacher leaving rates had improved slightly in 2018-19 – falling from 10.5 to 9.9. This represented 1,350 teachers, which the report said was “nearly half of the under-recruitment” in ITT in 2019-20. However fewer newly qualified teachers are being retained into their second year.

Undergraduate ITT courses capped for next year

Recruitment to undergraduate initial teacher training (ITT) courses will be capped next year.

The government wants to stabilise admissions during the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing “volatility and ensure fair and orderly admissions” so “students are safeguarded at a time of unprecedented uncertainty”.

Postgraduate teacher training courses will not be capped to help ease the teacher retention crisis.

However, undergraduate course providers can only recruit up to 5 per cent more students than their forecasted intake for 2020-21.

Noble-Rogers, said he would have preferred undergraduate teacher training courses to be outside the controls and “flexibility should be allowed”.

The Department for Education does have the discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 undergraduate places. Of these, 5,000 are ring-fenced for ten courses, including ITT.

Providers bid for these extra places, which are allocated by the education secretary.

However, the places “are not guaranteed, and no provider or institution should rely upon receiving additional places in their planning process”, guidance warns.

If the number of bids placed by providers exceeds 5,000, those with the “highest rates of continuation and high-skilled employment or further study” will be prioritised. And if multiple institutions apply for the same region or courses, places may be divided between them.

Far fewer applicants were recruited on to undergraduate ITT courses (4,963) compared with postgraduate courses (29,580) last year.