Union demands say in teacher apprenticeships to avoid ‘exploitation’

Union leaders are demanding more of a say in the development of a new teaching apprenticeship to ensure it’s not “exploited” by cash-strapped schools.

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, admitted she was “extremely concerned” about the new one-year vocational route into teaching currently under development.

The apprenticeship is being developed in response to recent reforms that mean many large schools will have to take on a certain number of apprentices every year and will have to pay the “apprenticeship levy” to fund their training.

But Bousted warned that funding pressures could tempt schools to “exploit” apprentices as a cheaper replacement for qualified staff – an issue the ATL will hold a debate on at its conference next week.

ATL will now demand that unions have more of a say in the development of the new teaching apprenticeship.

The danger is we’ll get an apprenticeship framework which is exploitative

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Bousted said the employers’ group involved in developing the new apprenticeship had been unable to answer her organisation’s “basic questions” around pay, training quality and teaching time, and said the new programme had not been adequately thought-through.

Teachers are also said to be concerned about some of the details of the pathway.

“The danger is that we will get an apprenticeship framework which is exploitative, which is low-paid, where people aren’t getting the decent training, and all those become even more important at a time where there is a funding crisis.

“The temptation will be for some school leaders to take on an apprentice, and they may not wish to do this, but the end result will be exploitation.”

Under the School Direct on-the-job training route, trainees are considered to be “supernumerary”, which means they are not required to teach classes during their training year, but Bousted raised concerns that apprentices may not receive the same protection.

“Whatever you think about the quality of School Direct, at least they have a guarantee that they are not going to be put in front of a class to teach,” Bousted said.

“For teaching apprentices, if they’re not supernumerary, at a time of really substantial real-terms funding cuts, the danger is that you get apprentices in who are essentially doing a full-time teaching timetable at hugely-reduced rates of pay.”

Bousted said the proposal she had been shown was for a year-long apprenticeship, but has questioned how apprentices will receive the same level of training as their peers who do not have to teach classes in the same timeframe.

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“We’ve got real questions about how can you do it all in a year when you’re not supernumerary, what you’ll be paid, who will assess whether the course is a good course.”

She also questioned Ofsted’s capacity to inspect providers of the new apprenticeship, given that the National Audit Office has warned that the watchdog is yet to inspect 48 per cent of initial teacher training routes.

Bousted also warned that the new route could further compound problems with the quality of teachers, given the recruitment in recent years of a large number of unqualified teachers.

“Government ministers tell us all the time that no education system can exceed the quality of its teachers but there has been a worrying rise in the last five years in the number of unqualified teachers.

“The government says there’s 15,000 extra teachers in the profession, well 11,000 of those are unqualified.”

The motion proposed by ATL members for next week’s conference calls on the union’s executive to lobby the government to ensure that all apprentices in education are “not employed as cheap replacements for qualified and experienced staff”.

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