A private training provider has warned it will be forced to close down if “shocking” government proposals to alter the FE teacher training market go ahead.
The Department of Education launched a consultation this week over plans to remove access to student finance for pre-service further education initial teacher training (ITT) courses from 2024/25.
From this point, the DfE proposes to only allow student loan funding where courses are delivered by, or in partnership with, universities and providers with degree awarding powers.
It launched the consultation due to “quality and value for money” concerns around some pre-service courses provided by private training companies.
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.
Sheila Singh, director of the London School of Academics, said she was “really, really shocked” by the proposals. Her firm, which currently has 150 FE teacher trainees, would lose access to student funding if the consultation got approved and be forced to close.
“That’s not fair at all. We solely teach for FE staff and so would need to close down [if it got approved],” she told FE Week.
Singh also disputed the DfE’s concerns around quality, citing previous accolades including being awarded highly commended by City & Guilds in the Lion Award for high-quality teaching in 2018.
“We thrive on quality, 110 per cent,” she said. The provider has not been inspected by Ofsted but is registered with the Office for Students.
Impact on the number of FE teachers
Teachers on pre-service ITT courses complete their teaching 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.
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”.
Minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education Robert Halfon said his 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”.
The department’s consultation said there was “no evidence” to suggest its proposed reforms would have a “significant negative impact” on the supply and availability of “appropriately trained” teachers ready to enter the FE sector.
But Singh said it would “definitely” have an impact on the number of FE teachers.
Recently published FE workforce data collection showed that, by the end of 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.
A DfE spokesperson said the department welcomes evidence to its consultation on “how the provision of ITT might impact on students intending to enter FE teaching and how pre-service ITT students are successfully progressing into teaching roles”.
The department also plans to use legislation 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.
Currently, providers of FE ITT do not need to be accredited which means there is a “lack of stability and sustainability in the FE ITT sector”, according to the DfE.
Accredited providers would need to submit more robust and prescribed data relating to their students and ITT courses to DfE to better manage the market.
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.
The consultation closes on November 6.