The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

John Viner

Where do new teachers come from?

Looking for fresh talent, or a pathway to a new career? John Viner outlines some of the many different routes into teaching.

As a teacher trainer, it always astonishes me that, of the (usually) young men and women who we send out into schools with a shiny new QTS, so many leave the profession after a few years. The bald fact of the matter is that the number of teachers joining the profession each year – around 50,000 – is broadly balanced by those who are leaving it.

There have been countless government surveys of recruitment and retention but, although the figures fluctuate, this is a sustained trend and has been for several years. Ministers may make optimistic noises; one of the first speeches made by Damien Hinds addressed the old chestnut of teacher workload as the touchstone to retention.

But despite many new initiatives to recruit and retain teachers, the equation remains constant and, as pupil numbers rise, the gap persists.

None of this is of much comfort if your school is facing a teacher shortage next year. So, here is a brief summary of the various routes into teaching and where recruits might be found.

PGCE routes

The traditional route of getting into teaching with higher education institutions continues to account for just under half of entrants to the profession. However, while trainees gain an academic qualification, which is not always the case with other routes, they have relatively limited school experience and do not enter the labour market until the end of their academic year.

Advantages to schools of the PGCE route are that they can often try out potential appointees through offering a training placement. In this way the trainees also get an early induction to the school.

School Direct

This route is ‘child of GTP’ and so has been around in one form or another since the turn of the century. It is run by a partnership between a lead school, other schools and an accredited teacher training provider. Just over a third of teachers enter the profession by this route. It leads to QTS but does not necessarily include a PGCE, although some ITT partner bodies include it as an option.

The main advantage of the School Direct route is it is, as the name suggests, school-based training and so the school is able to select its own trainees and hone them into the kind of teacher they want them to be and then offer them a place at the end. Or, if they turn out not to be quite the teacher they want, send them on their way into the job market.

Just over a third of teachers enter the profession by School Direct

There are several variations on the theme, and each one has pluses and minuses. For each version the school must employ the trainee on a teacher’s contract and pay them a (negotiable) salary. The ‘salary funded’ version is essentially aimed at career changers and pays the school a contribution to the salary and the cost of training. For a ‘training fee’ place, the school pays the trainee’s salary and the trainee covers the cost of training, usually through a bursary or scholarship.

Then there is the ‘self-funded’ place. Here the school picks up all the costs. Several independent schools offer this route to QTS.

Most training providers allow some previously experienced School Direct trainees to complete in two terms, on an accelerated programme. Also, since self-funded trainees can join the programme at any time, School Direct is able to drip-feed new teachers into the profession over the year.

School-centred ITT (SCITT)

Approved networks of schools – sometimes facilitated by a training provider – provide hands-on teacher training, delivered by experienced, practising teachers based in their own school or a school in their network. Just over 10 per cent of teachers enter the profession by this route, which is very similar to Schools Direct.

Teach First

Founded by Greg Wigdortz in 2002, Teach First is a social enterprise designed to train high attaining graduates in schools characterised by social disadvantage. Trainees attend a summer school and some planned training events but are placed rapidly into schools where they remain for two years. There is an expectation that Teach First trainees will rapidly secure leadership posts.

While lauded as a popular route into teaching, Teach First accounts for only five per cent of new entrants and recent evidence suggest that it suffers the same retention problems as the rest of the profession.

Now Teach

Now Teach was founded in 2016 by Katie Waldegrave, who had been one of the first Teach First graduates and Lucy Kellaway, former journalist about to retrain as a teacher. It currently works with secondary schools in London and Hastings, and is slowly expanding. This route is aimed at people reaching the end of their first profession with skills in shortage subjects, who wish to retrain as teachers, partnering with established ITT providers.

It is too early to assess the impact of Now Teach, but it is providing a steady trickle of new teachers.

Teacher apprenticeships

A new route, through which an expected 1000 teachers are expected to train per year. Since April 2017, all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million have had to pay the apprenticeship levy. This is money that is paid into an account and can then be spent only on apprenticeship training and assessment.

Large schools and academies are recruiting graduate apprentices. Apprentices will have to work for at least four terms, rather than the three required under the current postgraduate university or school-led routes. Apprentices will have to gain QTS after three terms as is usual with other graduate teacher training routes.

Assessment Only

Under the Assessment Only approach, graduate teachers with at least two years’ experience may apply for QTS assessment. Typically this will be those without QTS working in independent schools and teachers who trained in the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

Assessment Only has been panned as ‘QTS in 12 weeks’, but this is not so. While there is a 12-week window during which assessment must take place, the training providers who carry out the assessment will usually pay an initial visit to check if the candidate fulfils the ITT criteria and whether evidence meets the Teachers’ Standards. If not, the candidate will have to take action to address any weaknesses. If this involves, as it might, substantial experience of a second school, it might be a term of so later before the provider’s second visit.

This visit would check that the candidate is ready for assessment and, if not, identify any further actions required. Only when the candidate is ready can they be put onto the Assessment Only database – when the 12-week window applies.

TA to teacher routes

A little known but very effective recruitment pathway enables graduate TAs to train on the job, with the support of an accredited provider for two years. At the of this period, capitalising on current rules for Assessment Only, the candidate is assessed for QTS.

The main advantage for schools is that they can nominate their own people, the allocation of places is wholly outside DfE limits and the programme can begin at any time. Currently there are two providers for this, both of them essentially TA supply agencies. One is Premier Pathways, the other is Teach-in.

Other ITT routes

The DfE has piloted initiative after initiative to fill the teacher supply gap. By and large these initiatives have been pretty unsuccessful and costly. Among them are:

Troops to Teachers – a two-year programme with a £40,000 bursary, aimed at training non-graduate troops as graduate teachers.

Returning to Teaching Pilot – a two- to four-week bursary-supported course designed to help former teachers return to the classroom.

International Teacher Recruitment Programme – designed to recruit maths and physics teachers trained in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

Future Teaching Scholars – identifying potential maths and science teachers while still at university. 

Evidence suggests that, while these many routes into teaching are broadly matching demand, there remains a gap between recruitment and retention. Those wishing to find out more in greater detail, should read the House of Commons briefing paper on teacher recruitment and retention.

Make wellbeing a priority

Improving wellbeing is paramount if schools are to retain their staff.

Our Managing Staff Wellbeing: Reduce Stress and Improve Retention conference is the perfect opportunity to discover new ways to engage all staff in recognising and improving staff wellbeing.

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