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Recruitment - why primary schools must engage in training new teachers

January 3, 2023, 17:40 GMT+1
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  • We cannot rely on a dire economic outlook to ease the crisis in recruitment, warns Emma Hollis
Recruitment - why primary schools must engage in training new teachers

Earlier this year, we learned that a third of school-based ITT providers, and one in seven teacher training universities, either failed to gain accreditation or chose not to apply, following the government’s review of the sector.

Overall, 179 providers spanning school and university-based ITT were successful. Given there were around 240 providers operating last year, the review will result in a total reduction of around a quarter - once new entrants to provision are taken into account.

Whilst there have been some appeals, teacher trainers who are responsible for more than 5,000 trainees face mergers with others or closing altogether.

What will this mean for primary schools?

First, there is the fundamental issue of access to an ITT provider, with fewer now available. The implications will vary across regions, as geographical factors were not taken into account when deciding which ITT providers were to be allowed to continue, despite prior warnings of the risk of supply problems. As a result, some ‘cold spots’ across England have now emerged in the teacher training landscape.

There are also implications for placements; travel for trainees will be difficult where there is a lack of places. The Department for Education’s own research identified that ‘distance from home’ is a key driver in an applicant’s choice of provider. Should placement opportunities not be readily available on their doorstep, prospective applicants may be unable or unwilling to travel significant distances for their training, further affecting teacher supply.

The problems don’t end there. If, for example, ITT provision is to be supported by a larger, centralised provider, the curriculum they provide may not be relevant to localised needs. Schools may end up working with organisations that do not understand their community as well as their previous ITT provider, meaning the opportunities to support local context may not be as forthcoming.

Another challenge is the availability of time and capacity for mentoring. Under new DfE requirements, to which all ITT providers will need to adhere from September 2024, lead mentors will be required to undertake initial training of 30 hours, with 12 hours of annual refresher training. ‘General’ mentors will undertake 20 hours initial training and six hours of annual refresher training. They will be required to support trainees for a minimum of 1.5 hours per week. Without significant improvements to the issues currently faced by schools, there remains a considerable challenge in finding sufficient time and capacity to meet these new and exacting requirements.

The Department for Education, supported by organisations like NASBTT, is working to address these challenges. However, it is clear that we are in the midst of a teacher recruitment crisis, and increasingly schools are struggling to recruit sufficient numbers of teachers to support the learning of the children in our care. The government announced in November it will increase teacher training bursaries and scholarships next year to attract new entrants (albeit the total funding on offer is still £70 million lower than it was in 2020) but this alone will not solve the problem.

A glimmer of hope lies in the fact we are entering a period of economic uncertainty – and history shows that during periods of economic difficulty there is generally a boom in applications for teacher training. We should not have to rely on this. More must be done to make teaching an attractive, high status graduate profession, even in booming economic times.

We know that, nationally, some schools choose not to engage in ITT at all, but primaries must open up their doors to trainee teachers - not just when they are recruiting new staff but in supporting their training right from the start. If they do not, we will be faced with a teacher recruitment crisis of even greater proportions.

Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)