The government has confirmed it is developing a teaching apprenticeship route for non-graduates.
Trainees taking up the route would gain both a degree and qualified teacher status, under plans being drawn up by officials.
The idea of an undergraduate apprenticeship for classroom teachers has been considered repeatedly, amid pressure to boost recruitment and create more options for schools looking to spend apprenticeship levy funding.
Plans for an undergraduate route floated by education secretary Justine Greening in 2017 never came to fruition, and in more recent years ministers have only ever said they were looking at it.
But the Department for Education said this week it was now “working with the sector and with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to develop a new degree and QTS-awarding apprenticeship in teaching”.
Apprentices will get degree and QTS
In its evidence to the school teachers’ review body, the DfE said the “aim of this is to further boost the availability of apprenticeships for aspiring teachers, allowing them to gain a degree and QTS without incurring student debt”.
Previous attempts over recent years to create an undergraduate route have stalled in the face of technical barriers in the way apprenticeships work, and rumoured opposition from the long-serving schools minister, Nick Gibb.
One big question is over what level the new apprenticeship would be, and at what level qualified teacher status is awarded. A current postgraduate teaching apprenticeship exists at level 6.
The government will also have to decide whether the route will have to be overseen by universities, or whether other types of teacher training provider should be given degree-awarding powers.
Keegan explores maths and physics focus
Gibb is understood to have expressed misgivings in the past about a potential perception that the creation of a route not requiring an existing university degree would undermine the graduate-only nature of the profession.
But Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, has been more supportive of the idea, revealing last year she had tasked officials with looking into the feasibility of undergraduate apprenticeships for physics and maths teachers.
The question of subject-specificity is an important one, especially if the route is to be designed for both primary and secondary teachers.
But it is unclear at this stage whether the DfE will design separate frameworks for different subjects, and if it does, whether it will focus on those where there is a current shortage of applicants.
The DfE also said in its evidence that it is currently “reviewing” the level 6 postgraduate apprenticeship route, “with a view to making it more effective for the sector”.
Although participation has more than quadrupled over the last four years, fewer than 800 trainees picked the route this year.
“It is envisioned that the reform of PGTA will enable more schools to employ apprentice trainee teachers, aiding teacher sufficiency.”