The government is planning to cut private providers out of the FE teacher training market due to “quality and value for money” concerns amid the college staff recruitment crisis.
Under proposals published today, the Department for Education said it wants to remove access to student finance for pre-service further education initial teacher training (ITT) courses from 2024/25, except where courses are delivered by, or in partnership with, HE providers with degree awarding powers.
The department also plans to force FE teacher training organisations to be accredited by the DfE to establish a “clearly defined quality bar” that providers must meet before accessing public funding.
Accredited providers would need to submit more robust and prescribed data relating to their ITT courses and students’ data to DfE to better manage the market.
Teachers on pre-service ITT courses complete their qualification before they take up a teaching job. The DfE said teacher training for the FE sector that is delivered in-service, or “on-the-job” will continue to have access to public money through grant-funded programmes, such as Taking Teaching Further.
Minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education Robert Halfon said the proposals “should give people and providers the confidence that the quality of FE initial teacher training is top-tier and allow the FE sector to contribute towards its improvement”.
‘Unprepared to teach effectively’
In a consultation, the DfE said the overall volume of pre-service FE ITT delivered by private training providers – much of which is funded by student finance – has grown “significantly” in recent years, despite “increasingly acute” pressures on teacher recruitment.
Recently-published FE workforce data collection shows that, by the end of the 2021/22, 5.4 teaching posts per 100 were vacant. Vacancy rates were as high as 12.9 posts per 100 in construction, planning and the built environment, and over 10 posts per 100 in subjects as diverse as electronics, agriculture and horticulture, design, engineering and manufacturing, and accounting and finance.
The DfE claimed there is “emerging evidence”, including Ofsted reports, that gives “cause for concern about the quality” of some pre-service courses provided by private training companies.
It added that colleges have warned that pre-service students who have come to them from private training providers have “sometimes been unprepared to teach effectively in the sector and have required significant re-training”.
Latest government data shows there were 11 private providers delivering FE ITT in 2021/22. But the current figure is likely to be higher because the provider “market fluctuates rapidly”, the DfE said.
The department’s consultation said there was “no evidence” to suggest its proposed reforms would have a “significant negative impact” impact on the supply and availability of “appropriately trained” teachers ready to enter the FE sector.
It claimed that the “most effective way” to combat the teacher shortage in FE is through in-service training, where there is a direct relationship between the recruitment of a trainee and the filling of a teacher vacancy.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said he “welcomes” efforts to drive up the quality of ITT training in FE.
“It is vital that people moving into colleges to teach receive a high-quality training experience that prepares them to share their skills in our colleges, and that more people recognise that colleges are great places to work,” he added.
The consultation, which closes at 11:59pm on November 6, outlines plans to accredit publicly-funded ITT providers with the DfE. Currently, providers of FE ITT do not need to be accredited which means there is “no clearly defined quality bar” for providers, the DfE said.
That also means there is a “lack of stability and sustainability in the FE ITT sector” with new providers coming on stream and existing providers ceasing provision in a “largely unmanaged way, leading to significant capacity fluctuations in the system that do not necessarily reflect the wider teacher supply needs of the sector”.
The DfE also said “more regular and comprehensive” data collection from providers of FE ITT would mean it can “assess the size, performance, quality, and outcomes of the FE ITT sector”. Currently, there is “some usable data” on the ITT sector, but the DfE argued it “does not allow us to construct a comprehensive and robust picture” of how it is performing.
Halfon said securing well-trained teachers in high-priority FE subjects is “crucial”.
“Industry professionals know better than most the skills that employers need, and we recognise we need more teachers with specific expertise to share their knowledge and extend the ladder of opportunity to people from all walks of life,” he added.