Teacher apprenticeship 'not a priority' for Labour, says Rayner

The teacher apprenticeship will “not be a priority” under a Labour government because the route will do nothing to stem the tide of teachers leaving the profession, the shadow education secretary has said.

Angela Rayner, speaking to Schools Week after a speech at a Teach First conference today, said she was a strong supporter of vocational training having “equal parity” with academic training – but said she did not think the new apprenticeships announced by the government would keep new teachers in the profession.

The teaching apprenticeship, which the government plans for 2018, “does not hit the problem” of high teacher leaving rates, she said.

“If you ask me in terms of my priorities, and politics is a game of priorities, the apprenticeship route into teaching is not a priority.

“Keeping teachers in the classroom and the workload issue, that’s the priority.”

Speaking in front of delegates, Rayner said many teachers did not have enough money to live nor the time to see their own children because of workload.

“That’s the issue. It’s not necessarily about the routes into teaching, if I’m honest,” she told Schools Week later.

Criticism has surrounded the apprenticeship route since the government announced non-graduate teaching assistants will be able to do a separate apprenticeship to become qualified teachers.

Anne Milton, minister for skills, has said the apprenticeship for TAs will run alongside the postgraduate apprenticeship for teachers, both of which will protect the “professional status of teaching”.

Milton’s comments in July followed fears from unions that opening teacher training to non-graduates could lower the status of the profession.

Asked whether apprenticeship routes could lower the status of teaching, Rayner said both academic training and apprenticeship training were equally worthwhile.

As such she wouldn’t “necessarily scrap” the government’s plans on apprenticeships, and would “look at” them, since she had “absolute faith” in the parity of both types of training.

But she added she “wouldn’t like any kind of route that dumbs down the profession”.

Rayner also said she would be pressing ahead with plans for a roadshow up and down the country to hear the public’s views on proposals for a National Education Service.

The exact dates for the roadshow will be announced after the Budget on 22 November, said Rayner. Even if a general election were announced, the roadshow would still go ahead before all policies were implemented.

The National Education Service envisions schooling or training for citizens “from the cradle to the grave” like the NHS, Labour has said previously.

The roadshow will allow Rayner, and other politicians with her, to “shut up and listen” to the public’s views, she said.