The Department for Education’s (DfE) approach to tackling teacher training “lacks coherence”, its plans are “experimental and unevaluated” and the department shows “no sense of leadership or urgency” – the first page of the public accounts committee’s (PAC) report on “Training New Teachers” has revealed.
To save you time in wading through the report, Schools Week has rounded up the key points and concerns from the PAC.
1. The teacher training sector is confused
Since 2010, the number of routes into training has doubled – from four to eight.
As per government policy, this has co-incided with an increase in school-led provision. The number of SCITTS has tripled, from 56 to 155, and 841 School Direct providers have also been created.
PAC says this is difficult for “applicants to navigate, confusing for training providers to explain and confusing for schools involved in providing training through multiple routes”.
And, while School Direct has increased rapidly, 57 per cent of state-funded schools do not participate in it – especially primary schools in rural areas and secondaries in areas of high deprivation.
Decisions about how to allocate university training places this year have also “frustrated” the training market.
2. This adds to recruitment problems in certain areas
The DfE is relying on national statistics to tell it how well recruitment is going, but the report states that this “disguises important local variations”.
For example, in the east of England, there are just 294 trainees per 100,000 pupils, compared with 547 in the north west.
The report says the DfE has “not used its expansion of school-led training to target these imbalances and has no strategy to do so”.
3. Recruitment agency fees are a concern
As highlighted by Schools Week last July, recruitment agencies are becoming a bigger player in the teacher supply market.
PAC said this is putting “further pressure on already stretched budgets” and has ordered the DfE to examine the impact of recruitment agency fees and “consider ways to manage this”.
(The department has said it would not commit to introduce caps on recruitment agency fees)
4. The DfE must make teacher training information MUCH clearer
PAC wants the DfE to provide “clearer, more accessible information” to prospective applicants. This includes costs, where to study and the quality of training providers.
The committee wants this in place by autumn, when applicants for teacher training courses due to start in September 2017 begin reviewing their options.
This is already in the process of happening. Three specialist advisers have been recruited to “provide a dedicated one-to-one support service to help and support candidates with their application journey”, and explain all the routes to them.
The DfE has also been asked to also assess the impact of its policies on “trainee quality” and whether this year’s changes have led to “lower quality trainees”.
5. The DfE has NO PLAN for how to achieve its targets in the future
The DfE has missed its target for teacher training places for four years running, and “has no plan for how to achieve [targets] in future” – according to the report.
The Teacher Supply Model, which provides targets for subjects, does not account for shortfalls in previous years, so the number of trainees required could be much higher than currently predicted by the model.
PAC criticised the DfE for having no “plan to commission an independent review to establish the model’s accuracy”.
6. Almost 1 in 5 EBacc lessons are taught by non-specialist teachers
Because there are not enough teachers, more non-specialists are now taking lessons, particularly in the EBacc subjects where this amounts to 18 per cent of lessons.
7. The DfE has spent £1bn on bursaries – but won’t know if they have worked
The DfE will have spent £1 billion on bursaries by this time next year. But it has no proof that this has helped to increase teacher recruitment.
It does not track what bursary recipients go on to do, or even if they end up in the classroom, and cannot therefore “judge the value for money” of the schemes.
8. What are PAC’s recommended next steps for the DfE?
PAC now wants the DfE to:
– Create a “clear plan” with details about how targets will be met should be created. This should be underpinned by “better data” and the DfE needs to carry out an independent test of its teacher supply model
– Tell the committee by the end of August the “extent and impact of teachers taking lessons they are not qualified in”. This should then be used to inform teacher supply choices
– Urgently evaluate the bursary schemes and if they lead to “more, better quality teachers”
– Set out how, and by when, the DfE will evaluate all (and there are obviously a lot) of its initiatives. PAC says this means it will be able to invest only in programmes that “work best”.
9. Schools minister Nick Gibb disagrees with all the above
Schools minister Nick Gibb said he “does not recognise” the picture painted by the report.
He said that schemes like the National Teaching Service will put “great teachers” where they are needed “most”.
Schools Week reported last month concerns the scheme was not close to meeting its recruitment targets.
The DfE said “freedoms” in teacher pay help with recruitment, that “record levels” of trainees hold a first-class degree and that School Direct “offers all schools, wherever they are located, the chance to take great control and attract, train and develop high quality teachers and potential leaders”.
The DfE also highlighted how much is available in bursaries and scholarships.