Teacher training ‘shambles’ is turning into supply ‘crisis’

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Experts have slammed the teacher training 'shambles' and fear that a teacher shortage is looming in some subjects while other trainees could face the prospect of unemployment in two years' time. Dorothy Lepkowska reports.

Further questions have been raised over the “shambolic” state of recruitment to teacher training after it was claimed that a lack of government planning could lead to thousands of trainees failing to get a job in two years’ time.

Latest figures suggest that the allocations for graduates starting secondary training courses in September next year will be about a third higher than the number of teachers required, meaning that many could be left unemployed.

Experts say that while some subjects, such as maths and physics, will continue to experience shortages, others including geography, history and PE may see more trainees coming through than there are jobs for.

Chris Waterman, an education commentator and analyst, accused education secretary Michael Gove of “cynically manipulating” teacher training numbers to push the problems beyond the 2015 election.

He said: “Michael Gove, who directly manages the National College for Teaching and Leadership, is desperately trying to avoid a major row on teacher supply – at the expense of graduates’ futures.

“The allocations for graduates starting secondary training courses in September 2014 are 34 per cent higher than actually needed, which means a guarantee of unemployment for many graduates upon completion of their training course. 

“At the same time, the secretary of state and David Laws, the schools minister, are encouraging free schools and academies to employ unqualified teachers, which will mean even more trained teachers not getting a job.”

He said that by over-allocating for next September, the “real crisis will not hit teacher training until September 2015, conveniently after the general election”.

Meanwhile, Sir David Bell, the former chief inspector of schools and an ex-top civil servant at the Department for Education (DfE), said last week that university education departments had stepped in to prevent a teacher trainee shortage after the government’s on-the-job training scheme School Direct under-recruited.

New figures show that School Direct recruited 68 per cent of its allocation of 9,586 places, compared with universities who filled all but 255 of the 26,785 training places they were allocated.

The DfE said there were never formal targets and that allocations were over and above what was required. However, quoted by the BBC, Sir David, former permanent secretary at the DfE and now vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “The cracks have been papered over thanks to universities stepping in at the last minute to take on unfilled places.

“We’ve got to ask some serious questions about schools’ capacity to take on even more trainees next year, when they fell short this year.” 

Sir David said his own university was given low allocations in the core subjects this year, but had asked ministers if it could take on extra trainees after local schools were unable to fill some of their places through School Direct.

Sir David added: “It is fine to create a range of training routes but not at the expense of good, proven providers.”

Experts fear that the over-allocation in certain subjects means that graduates will opt for School Direct which comes with a presumption of employment. This could make university courses uneconomic to run and lead to more closures of specific courses and the withdrawal of some universities from the teacher training arena.

Professor John Howson, a leading expert in teacher recruitment, told SecEd: “This is a shambles. The government has tried to do something different with teacher training and it has failed. If you take higher education out of the teacher training equation then you have nothing in reserve or a back-up. We are moving into a teacher supply crisis.”

Research into the issue by Mr Waterman and Prof Howson will be discussed at an event at the House of Commons on Tuesday (December 10) entitled The Future of Teacher Training in England. 

It will examine, among other issues, the current situation in initial teacher training and the future of School Direct and higher education providers.

A DfE spokesman denied that universities had stepped in to prevent a teacher shortage. He said: “We do not expect to fill all places – that is why we always allocate more than we need. If the allocations are not reached it does not mean there will be a shortage of teachers. 

“Together schools and universities have reached 99 per cent of our overall target for post-graduates.

“School Direct is a response to what schools told us they wanted – a greater role in selecting and recruiting trainees with the potential to be outstanding teachers.”


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