Evidence to Education Select Committee (updated August 2023)
The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) is, as the membership body for higher education institutions engaged in teacher education and educational research, pleased to submit the following evidence to this important enquiry. We stand ready to supplement this at an oral evidence session. We have structured the evidence under the main headings in the call for evidence There is however inevitably a degree of overlap and points made in one section might also apply to others.
Education Select Committee
Call for Evidence: Teacher recruitment, training & retention.
The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) is, as the membership body for higher education institutions engaged in teacher education and educational research, pleased to submit the following evidence to this important enquiry. We stand ready to supplement this at an oral evidence session.
We have structured the evidence under the main headings in the call for evidence There is however inevitably a degree of overlap and points made in one section might also apply to others.
The current system regarding teacher recruitment & retention
There are a range of factors that make recruitment to the profession difficult, and they apply to both the primary and secondary sectors. DfE is now starting to miss its ITE recruitment target for primary programmes (something that was unthinkable in the past) and is forecast to miss its targets in 9 out of 17 secondary subjects by 20% or more in 2023/24. While recruitment has sometimes been challenging over the past 20 years, these difficulties now seem to represent a worrying trend. There was an overall 40% shortfall in ITE recruitment for the 2022/23 academic year according to DfE’s own measure and the prognoses for the forthcoming academic year are at least as worrying. Howson (2022) refers to this as a ‘period of unprecedented turmoil’ https://www.teachvac.co.uk/misc_public/Labour%20Market%20Report%20- %20January%20to%20July%202022.pdf
There are many interlinked reasons for this: median pay for teachers is 12% lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11; the workload of teachers remains greater than that for comparable professions; teachers spend too much time on non-teaching activities; and teachers have less autonomy than those working in other professions. Our evidence, because of our remit, concentrates on the recruitment and retention of student teachers and the structure, content and delivery of teacher education. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1148571/Working_lives_of_teachers_and_leaders_-_wave_1_-_core_report.pdf
Financial pressures are making it difficult to recruit people to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes and to retain those that are recruited. Those recruited to postgraduate programmes will be faced with an additional year of student debt and will in most cases be required to pay £9,250 tuition fees. Bursaries are inconsistently available for a limited range of subjects at secondary level (presently only available for 9 out of the 17 secondary subjects), and not at all for primary, despite recruitment being problematic in most subjects and phases. Students on undergraduate ITE programmes often have to rely entirely on student loan support. Student teachers are faced with significant on-programme costs, including travel (and sometimes accommodation) costs relating to their school placements. It is difficult for student teachers to alleviate these costs through part-time working because of the demands of the ITE programmes.
The way teaching is presented in the media, as a stressful job with limited rewards, the perceived lack of validity of OfSTED inspections, difficult pupils, frequent government policy changes and limited professional agency also act as deterrents. DfE marketing campaigns, despite being well-intentioned, depict teachers as heroic, utterly confident and capable of handling every situation alone. This is an inauthentic depiction which is eclipsed by the ongoing barrage of (equally unrealistic) negative media hype and is largely unpersuasive. Prospective teachers should be shown that they will be part of a supportive team, with an emphasis on the guidance and nurturing they will receive through outstanding ITE programmes and during their early ears in the profession. Marketing should also seek to ensure that the teaching profession is representative of the general population.
The availability of school placements for ITE students threatens recruitment, as ITE providers are restricted by the limited capacity of schools to host student teachers. The distribution of placements across the country is being impacted by students having to study closer to home for financial reasons. The pressures on mentor capacity imposed on schools by the Early Career Framework (ECF) is leading some schools to either withdraw from ITE partnerships or to reduce the number of places they offer. UCET members have reported some schools either choosing to employ Early Career Teachers (with attendant ECF responsibilities) or to engage in ITE, but not both. These pressures are set to increase with the introduction of the new ITE Quality Requirements in 2024/25 which will require: lead ITE mentors to have 30 hours initial training and 12 hours refresher training each year; general school mentors to have a minimum of 20 hours initial training and 6 hours a year refresher training; a minimum of 15 hours pe-week for student teachers in classrooms during their placements; 2 hours mentoring support per student teacher per week; and a minimum ratio of mentors to student teachers of 1:50. As with other aspects of the new Quality Requirements, the original mentoring and placement guidance bore such limited resemblance to what was practical in schools that they have since had to be clarified in the form of multiple FAQs and iterations. This lack of strategic thinking has exacerbated schools’ reluctance to participate in ITE partnerships. Although some of these changes are, in principle, to be welcomed they will place additional pressures on schools and we are concerned that they will further reduce placement opportunities. These pressures could be alleviated by: DfE allowing ITE providers to take account of mentor training undertaken prior to the introduction of the new requirements; synergising mentor training and mentoring activities between the ITE and the ECF; extending funding for mentoring beyond 2024/25; and allowing mentoring funding to be drawn down prior to the introduction of the new Quality Requirements.
It is recommended that:
· DfE considers writing off some or all of the student debt of new teachers who remain in the profession for a given number of years.
· DfE allows the recognition of all forms of mentor training in regards the new ITE Quality Requirements.
· DfE extends and makes more flexible central DfE funding for mentor support.
What action should the Department take to address the challenges in teacher recruitment & retention?
National Foundation for educational research (NFER) data suggests that bursaries do have a positive impact on recruitment to ITE and we believe that they should be retained (https://www.nfer.ac.uk/teacher-labour-market-in-england-annual-report-2023/). We also however think that the extremely high bursaries of up to £27,000 might only have a limited long-term impact. We think it unlikely that anyone who will train to teach with a £27,000 bursary but who would not do so for, say, £20,000 is particularly committed to the profession. UCET members report significant numbers of ‘bursary tourists’ only applying for the financial rewards which, once tax has been taken into account, will exceed the amounts paid to those teaching them and those supporting them in schools. The high level of some bursaries also encourages some genuine applicants to apply for subjects other than the one they might be most appropriately qualified for, which can increase the pressures they feel while undertaking their ITE and so impact on retention. Changing bursaries on an annual basis also makes marketing and planning difficult. We would advocate levelling out bursary payments across all subjects and phases and setting bursary levels for a three-year period. We would also suggest allocating funding (possibly part-funded using unspent bursary monies) to ITE providers to operate hardship funds for ITE students while on programme. Such funds could be given to ITE providers on the basis of all-year student numbers for them to allocate in response to local needs and costs of living. The funding would be ring-fenced for student hardship, with unspent money being returned at the year end.
It is recommended that:
· DfE restructures ITE bursaries so that all student teachers receive a standard level of financial support.
· DfE fixes bursary levels for three-year periods.
· DfE allocates funding is to ITE providers to provide hardship support to student teachers in need.
How well does the current teacher