The government is trying to stay “on the front foot” to help teacher trainers deal with a huge influx of international applications, a senior official has said.
International applicants can now only apply for roles that offer visa sponsorship, with the Department for Education planning to “rapid test” further improvements.
Recruitment figures show a 323 per cent increase in applications from outside the United Kingdom and the European Economic Area so far this year. However, the number deemed suitable for an offer has increased just 61 per cent.
Last year, the DfE introduced an international relocation payment and made non-UK nationals eligible for physics and MFL bursaries.
James Noble-Rogers, the executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said the rise was placing “unsustainable pressure” on providers.
“Most of the extra people applying will not translate into actual recruits. This is because they do not hold the necessary entry qualifications, they misunderstand the nature of the courses they are applying for, or they already have teaching qualifications.”
Stacey Singleton, the DfE’s deputy director for ITT reform, said the department had tried to “be on the front foot” supporting providers as it recognised international applications took longer to process.
She told the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) conference this week that a technical change meant “international candidates are only able to apply to courses that can offer visa sponsorship”.
Change has ‘eased’ burden on teacher trainers
A small panel of providers would “rapid test” any other improvements “to minimise any extra burdens there might be on ITT providers”.
In August 2022 the department added a function on its website to filter the courses that offered visa sponsorship. Last year 4,489 applications were rejected because the course was not suitable.
Emma Hollis, the executive director at the NASBTT, said the international applications were creating an “increased administrative burden” for SCITTs that could not sponsor student visas, but the website change had “eased” this “considerably”.
There were 4,705 international applications as of November for the 2024-25 academic year, up from 1,111 in the same time last year.
Last year, the DfE’s top civil servant told trainers to stop turning away so many applicants.
A NASBTT survey of 102 members found 35 per cent said recruitment was better at this stage of the year compared with last year. Only 7 per cent said it was worse.
This week’s data also showed that offers and accepted applications had risen by 6 and 3 per cent. Jack Worth, an economist at the National Foundation for Education Research, said this was encouraging “but early days yet in terms of what that means for recruitment this year.”
Ofsted handbook changes
Delegates at the conference also heard that Ofsted is making “small tweaks” to its inspection handbook for next September, when ministers’ ITT reforms kick in. It hopes to publish by April.
“We will want to meet with the person who has constructed and designed the mentor curriculum,” said Helen Matthews, senior HMI for teacher development. But there would be no “extra hurdles” to jump through.
Guidance on intensive training and practice, one of the key reforms, is slightly delayed but due in December.
Last academic year, just 179 of around 240 providers made it through re-accreditation. NASBTT estimates 32 accredited providers are either closing or merging. Nine may have closed entirely.
New flexible working network
The government has been exploring the use – and risks – of artificial intelligence in education.
Hollis told the conference one of her members’ key questions was about the use of AI in personal statements.
Duncan Brown, the DfE’s principal software engineer, said it was creating guidance “on the usage of AI for writing personal statements”, similar to advice from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
Brown said it would advise students using AI to be “conscious it’s about you and not about the structure of your sentences”.
The DfE has also launched a “flexible ITT delivery network” to help providers share best practice on flexible working in teacher training.
Molly Bland, a policy designer at the department, said there would be a series of talks on how flexibility could promote recruitment and retention.