How many of you know a SCITT from a PGCE, an NQT from an ECT, a TA from someone with QTS? Unless you work in education, few readers will know these acronyms relating to routes into teacher training. The best known is the qualification I undertook, Post Graduate Certificate in Education, the most formal pedagogical route.

Confused? You will be, when we add in the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s announcement of teacher degree apprenticeships, whereby apprentices can spend four years studying to be a teacher and emerge without tuition fee debt.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Keegan is a good example of where a degree apprenticeship can lead. She has one, having left school at 16 to be sponsored by General Motors through a Business Studies degree. This led to a successful business career and a switch to politics that saw her become a Secretary of State, just a few years after being elected in 2017.

But let’s be more forensic than Laura Kuenssberg was in her eponymous politics show, during her an interview with Keegan which felt more like a gentle fireside chat.

Belatedly, the Government is waking up to the catastrophic teacher recruitment crisis, which I have discussed in this column before. Contrary to Keegan’s assertion that things are “getting better”, in 2023 the Government missed its targets for secondary teacher trainees by 50 per cent. Department for Education targets were missed in 15 out of 18 subjects (History, Classics and PE excepted). “Shortage occupation subjects” include Computer Science, Maths and Physics.

This is terrible enough, but set against teacher retention rates, it becomes disastrous. 40,000 teachers resigned in the year to 2022, and close to 4,000 retired or died. That’s a record near 10 per cent of the profession leaving, with just 13,000 starting to train.

What’s more, some teachers are already being paid to train, but the amounts are derisory. For certain STEM subjects you can receive bursaries of up to £30,000, but my PGCE bursary for English was £12,000. That was to enable me to teach unpaid in a school, while studying for my qualification. The following year it was scrapped altogether. It’s since been reintroduced at £15,000. The Teach First starting salary (where you are plunged into a random school) for unqualified teachers to learn on the job is just over £20,000 (outside London). Would you do it?

Keegan frames the new apprenticeships as “skipping student debt”, but she is actually just removing a required degree qualification to start teaching. You only need a GCSE grade four in Maths and English to train to teach at secondary level. Teenagers who have scraped passes will be allowed to teach. This is surely a sticking-plaster panic measure: recruiting young people on the cheap, who are not of the highest academic calibre, to make the figures look better.

It fails to address the root cause of the calamitous figures: how low salaries, behavioural problems, long hours, data focus, micro-management and high stress levels make the profession so unattractive, both to potential trainees and – crucially – experienced practitioners. Nobody says “you’ve done a f**king good job” to teachers either, Ms Keegan, nor rewards them commensurately. That’s the real reason there is a crisis.

QOSHE - Gillian Keegan’s teacher apprenticeships ignores the elephant in the room - Stefano Hatfield
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Gillian Keegan’s teacher apprenticeships ignores the elephant in the room

12 1
04.02.2024

How many of you know a SCITT from a PGCE, an NQT from an ECT, a TA from someone with QTS? Unless you work in education, few readers will know these acronyms relating to routes into teacher training. The best known is the qualification I undertook, Post Graduate Certificate in Education, the most formal pedagogical route.

Confused? You will be, when we add in the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s announcement of teacher degree apprenticeships, whereby apprentices can spend four years studying to be a teacher and emerge without tuition fee debt.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Keegan is a good example of where a degree apprenticeship can lead. She has one, having left school at 16 to be sponsored by General Motors through a Business Studies degree. This led to a successful business career and a switch to........

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