Changing initial teacher training: our starter for 10…

The latest figures published by UCAS for initial teacher training show the number of applicants down 22%, almost 10,000, compared with the same time last year. Something needs to change to prevent this crisis from worsening. Here is our 10 point plan:

  1. Make initial teacher training more financially viable for trainees.  Unless trainees are able to secure a place on a salaried route, they must pay for their training and are unable to work.  Student loans and bursaries can help, but another year of fees after undergraduate study are very often too much and there is little financial support for those who would have to give up a job and return to study. In other professions, e.g. nursing, trainees are not expected to pay.
  1. The professional skills tests are too rigorous.  If a candidate has achieved GCSE English and Maths at grade C or above, the professional skills tests appear redundant as a measure of knowledge.  However, they place additional pressure on candidates with just three attempts allowed and they are taken in an artificial environment leading to higher failure rates.  Potentially excellent teachers have been lost because they failed a test three times.
  1. A 2:2 degree classification is not valued highly enough.  Degree classification can stop applicants being selected because of the emphasis on a first and upper second. This can sometimes excludes candidates with excellent potential to teach. It doesn’t necessarily follow that great academics make great teachers, and vice-versa.
  1. Put the allocations for training places onto a three-year cycle, rather than one. This allows providers sufficient time to plan for the long-term and gives providers the confidence to invest in the right staff.
  1. There needs to be an effective mechanism to broker places between providers. In the absence of a purely market-driven system for teacher training places, providers with demand surpluses for training specialisms struggle to be matched with providers with an over-supply of spaces. Thus, the system, as well as the providers, loses out.
  1. The routes into initial teacher training are too complicated. In our experience, often the focus of a candidate, when considering a career in teaching, is on the route into their training rather than on the motivation to train, or even on the quality of the end provider. The application process should be made simpler.
  1. There is no clear national marketing strategy for teacher training.  In the absence of a co-ordinated and effective strategy, individual providers are forced to invest their own money marketing and advertising their courses. The recent government-led marketing campaign was initiated too late to benefit the current recruitment cycle.
  1. Private providers need equality.  As initial teacher training is increasingly placed in the hands of schools, they will need support from external providers to ensure they can effectively recruit, administer, train, mentor, assess and quality assure their trainees.  Currently, student loans are capped at £6,000 for private providers and they must also pay VAT. This creates an unfair playing field for the private sector when compared with universities.
  1. Teaching needs to be perceived as an attractive long-term profession.  The burden on any teacher can be very large and trainees experience this during their training year.  Ofsted adds huge pressure and trainees see this from the start.  This overrides the vocational pleasure and reward of the job to such an extent that even very committed trainees cannot stand the strain.
  1. Bring back GTP – it was very successful.