Reducing a bursary for maths teachers in favour of retention payments in their early careers likely resulted in a net loss of almost 200 entrants to the profession, an evaluation has found.
The Department for Education piloted its “phased maths bursary” scheme in 2018.
Previously, bursaries for trainees ranged between £25,000 and £27,500 and were paid upfront.
However under the pilot, this initial payment fell to between £20,000 and £22,000 and instead payments of between £5,000 and £7,500 in the third and fifth year of teaching were introduced.
A formal evaluation by CFE Research and FFT Education Datalab compared the recruitment of maths teachers at the time of the pilot with recruitment in other subjects.
It said the results suggested that reducing the initial bursary “reduced recruitment onto maths initial teacher training by 10 to 15 per cent”.
This is an “estimated 275 fewer maths teachers entering state schools in the 2019-20 academic year”.
There was “no consistent statistical evidence that introducing additional funds for maths teachers later in their career (through ECPs) influenced recruitment”.
Scheme did aid retention…
However, the results did suggest the pilot reduced the attrition of teachers by 37 per cent in the year the first £5,000 payment was made, equating to 47 maths teachers retained who would have otherwise left state school teaching.
The higher retention payments of £7,500, which were paid in certain areas of the country, reduced attrition by 58 per cent, the evaluation found. However, the “sample used to estimate this value is small, so caution is needed interpreting the results”.
The third payment for teachers taking part is due in this year, meaning data to evaluate its impact is not yet available.
But assuming the effect is the same as the second payment, the analysis predicted just 94 teachers would have been retained in total.
…but ‘markedly’ reduced supply of new teachers
“Since this is lower than the 275 fewer teachers entering the profession in the 2019-20 academic year, the PMB pilot is therefore likely to result in a net reduction of teachers within the 2018-19 cohort by the end of the policy period.”
So while the early career payments “did retain teachers”, the reduced bursary “reduced the supply of first year maths teachers markedly”, the report concluded.
The government has subsequently introduced more generous schemes of bursary and retention payments for some subject teachers.
In 2020, maths, physics, chemistry and language teachers were offered bursaries of £26,000 followed by early career payments of £2,000 to £3,000 in their second, third and fourth years.
A newer scheme, the levelling-up premium, currently offers maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers up to £3,000 annually in the first five years of their careers, on top of the existing initial bursaries.
Labour has also proposed a £2,400 teacher retention bonuses for all those who complete the two-year early career framework.
However, the party has also pledged to review the whole system of incentive payments, so it is unclear whether the payments would b accompanied by bursaries as generous as those on offer now.