The Department for Education has taken control of its flagship FE teacher training scheme from its charity partner mid-contract, amid dwindling recruitment numbers, FE Week can reveal.
Taking Teaching Further (TTF) was seized from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in March by the DfE after just one year into what was supposed to be a two-year programme.
Delivery of the TTF was taken in-house by the DfE to “enable any possible future changes to be made more easily,” the department claimed. An ETF spokesperson added that necessary changes the DfE wanted to make would have required a retendering exercise.
Soon after the DfE took over the scheme, which retrains industry professionals as FE teachers, it revamped the offer with, for example, £6,000 financial incentives to entice more recruits to the hardest-to-fill subjects.
Figures obtained by FE Week show that from the five funding rounds of TTF managed by the ETF since 2018, just over half of the 1,960 places available were filled.
After the fifth funding wave – which runs from April 2022 to July 2024 – closed for bids in November, only 39 per cent of the 710 places available were filled, the lowest success rate of the scheme.
Across the first four rounds, the ETF supported 780 recruits, but only 508 completed both years of the two-year programme, meaning over one-third dropped out.
The low numbers highlight the recruitment and retention challenges FE providers are facing in England, both organisations told FE Week.
“The programme has had a proven record of success, providing support and training, but it cannot address wider issues affecting the sector such as salaries, the flexibility of FE roles offered compared to other sectors, where working from home is now more prominent, as well as competition from other sectors for people with the skills the FE sector is looking for,” the ETF added.
This could explain the DfE’s introduction of a financial incentive pilot as part of its sixth funding round launch, which awards an extra £6,000 to eligible recruits in hard-to-fill subjects: digital, construction and the built environment, engineering and manufacturing, and maths.
Wave six of the TTF has 710 places available, with up to half of these attracting the new piloted financial incentive, a DfE spokesperson told FE Week.
“We know some subject areas are facing larger recruitment challenges, so introduced the financial incentive pilot for TTF 2023 to further support recruitment in some of the most hard-to-fill subject areas,” they added.
TTF 2023 registrations are open and close on November 30, 2023.
How TTF works
TTF is a two-year programme that aims to recruit people with industry experience to retrain as FE teachers across 15 technical subjects, plus a new core skills route, which targets experts to teach English and maths to technical subject students.
DfE will hand out £18,200 per eligible recruit to colleges and private training providers per funding wave as part of their contract.
The grant funding is used to cover the cost of a teaching qualification – a minimum of a level 5 diploma in education and training – the costs of extra teacher time to mentor the recruit, and the costs to the recruit to have a reduced teaching timetable by covering the cost of backfilling.
The programme follows two routes, one for FE colleges and the other for private providers.
In route one, colleges register their interest, giving an estimate of the number of people they could potentially recruit. After issuing grants, the colleges would then go through the recruitment process.
Route two involved ITPs being issued grants for each person that they recruited.
The contract seizure comes at a critical time for the ETF. The foundation is exploring redundancy options amid an “organisational restructure”.
One senior director at the charity posted on LinkedIn this week that he had taken voluntary redundancy due to a “significant organisational restructure with a smaller senior leadership team”.
The ETF would not specify how many staff are at risk of redundancy as it is going through the “process of organisation design” over the next few months and is “not in a position to discuss numbers affected”.
A spokesperson said the charity will launch its new strategy later in the year.
The ETF announced in March 2022 that the DfE was slashing its grant funding, and earlier this year the charity had to repay £6.2 million to the government following a legal dispute over T Levels professional development contract.
The latest restructuring, the ETF claimed, was not driven by the TTF programme returning to DfE nor due to the repayment of funds from the T Levels contract.
“ETF remains in a financially stable position. We have identified opportunities to work more efficiently, remove duplication and continue to deliver outstanding support to the sector,” a spokesperson said.