Concerns over funding for FE teacher training

Questions have been raised over the further education (FE) sector’s ability to attract experts into teaching in the face of proposed government reforms.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) has expressed concerns about proposed teacher training reforms and the implications of funding changes for initial teacher training (ITT).

In responses to two government consultations – Attracting, training and retaining the best teachers and New challenges, new chances: next steps in implementing the further education reform programme – the IfL highlighted several policy areas for closer examination and review.

It was concerned about the sector’s ability to attract experts from industry into the teaching workforce, when ITT tuition fees rise significantly from 2012, and the lack of parity between teacher training opportunities in the education sector.

IfL’s chief executive, Toni Fazaeli, said: “Our data shows that the average age of new teachers and trainers coming into our sector is around 37, by which time individuals are likely to have a family, mortgage, and other financial commitments, including perhaps existing student loans.

“The prospect of taking on additional debt of at least £6,000 for ITT qualifications could deter them from moving into teaching as a second profession, where their pay is likely to be lower.

“We owe our international competitiveness, the influence of our innovation and the strength of our communities to the skills of our teachers and trainers, and we should be welcoming the most talented individuals into our sector with open arms.

“It cannot be right that while teacher training in schools attracts generous bursaries of up to £20,000 for priority subjects, there is no such support for those wishing to teach or train in FE and skills, even if their professional expertise lies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.”

The IfL also believes the Troops to Teachers programme should be funded in FE, while the facility for young people aged over 14 to benefit from being taught by vocationally trained experts should be “at the heart” of the education system.

Mrs Fazaeli added: “The dramatic change in the accessibility of post-compulsory teacher training is unprecedented and poses significant risks to the sustainability of our high-quality teaching workforce.

“The education select committee should recommend an urgent review of the likely implications and potential remedies to mitigate the impact of tuition fee increases, such as writing off student debt for trainee teachers, providing tax relief or offering generous bursaries on a par with those for school teacher trainees.”

IfL’s concerns are shared by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), whose executive director, James Noble-Rogers, said: “The new fees regime could undo progress towards professionalisation and parity of esteem with schools, have an adverse impact on widening participation and damage the quality of students’ education.

“The problem could  easily be solved through bursaries or a continuation of direct funding for training courses.”