What’s a trainee teacher worth?

Earlier today the DfE and NCTL announced the bursary arrangements for 2015/16 graduate entrants to teacher training. These arrangements apply to almost all graduate entry routes except Teach First. Interestingly, gone is the uplift in amounts for trainees working in schools with high percentages of free school meals that existed in previous years. On the other hand new subjects are now eligible for bursaries, including religious education. There is still, however, a pecking order with some subjects attracting higher amount than others regardless of where the trainee obtained their degrees. Physics, chemistry, maths and IT/computing graduates with doctorates or first class honours degrees will be paid £25,000, whereas geographers and design and technology trainees with the same level of degree will be paid only £12,000 despite probably being in scarcer supply than either chemists or mathematicians at the present time.

Even worse off will be RE graduates with a 2:2 degree as, despite the shortage of trainees, they won’t receive anything. The same goes for the many primary, history and English trainees with similar degrees. There are some shortage subjects, such as business studies, that once again seem to have been overlooked, whereas it is at least arguable whether there is a shortage of classics teachers in state-funded schools but they qualify under the languages heading. As a result such trainees will receive £15-£25,000 depending upon their degree class.

Once again there is no recognition for trainees on bursaries of the differential cost of living in and around London although those training in adjacent classrooms on the School Direct salaried route do receive such differentials to mark the fact that there are different salary bands for teachers.

One of the risks of this market-based approach, an approach not favoured by the army when deciding whether to pay gunners at Sandhurst more than future armoured regiment officers or those destined for the infantry, is that some candidates may hold off applying in the hope that the amounts paid in future years will be even better. However, hopefully, this is balanced by those for whom the cash makes a difference when deciding whether or not to train as a teacher.

Personally, I would favour paying the fees for all trainees with degrees as to expect those who take a subject degree and train as a primary teacher to pay up to £9,000 more in fees than those that opt to train as part of their first degree seems a bit unfair.

As the period between now and February is vital in setting the basis for the success of recruitment to training in 2015 it is to be hoped that the announcement about funding taken together with the recently announced recruitment campaign are successful in attracting more applicants of a suitable quality into teaching than in recent years since the prospect of a third year of under-recruitment at a time when pupil numbers are rising is not a prospect that anyone wants to contemplate.


5 thoughts on “What’s a trainee teacher worth?

  1. I too would favour paying fees for all non-salaried SD and Provider Led trainee teachers. However I’m aware that this is really because I think, like nurses, we are asking them to spend time not earning in order to train for a career that is essential to society. I’m tempted to suggest that this might be set up so they have to do a period of state-sector teaching in order to have their fees paid too but I guess that’s an ideological viewpoint. The idea of paying bursaries only where shortages exist is much better aligned with general government policy and in some ways reflects the move away from nationally-agreed pay scales. There is certainly an argument to be made that it is not good value for the taxpayer to fork out £9000 to train a PE teacher when they’re lining up round the block to pay the £9000 out of their own pocket. However, if sticking with this system, it is pretty crucial that decisions on bursaries fit the circumstances – the point you’re making. I would suggest from local evidence that whilst there certainly is a shortage of English teachers on the ground, recruiting trainee teachers isn’t the problem; fixing the shortage in our area could be done by keeping the SD allocation and giving us some PL places (we don’t have any this year). On the other hand, trying to fix the biology shortage by letting everyone increase their allocation hasn’t worked because the biology bursary compared to the chemistry bursary turns anyone with a whiff of chemistry into a chemistry specialist and probably makes some biologists think they’ll find a job where they’re not treated as second-class scientists. At the moment, I just don’t think the NCTL and DfE have got the hang of what they’re doing yet; hopefully the need to put qualified teachers in front of children will focus their minds and trump the desire to insist on continuing to shift places away from HEIs, and the current belief that top graduates are worth far more than others.

    • Thanks for the comments. The Treasury has always been of the opinion that paying those that would train anyway is a waste of public money. Curiously, we do pay them a salary when qualified. I think the focus over the past year has been on ensuring the DfE and hopefully the NCTL understand that the environment has changed from the years during the recession when recruitment was easy. English has been an issue because the Teacher Supply Model has probably under-estimated demand. I believe that the DfE are investigating the causes and will be watching the outcome this year. Thanks for the detailed comments.

  2. John, I forward all your blogs to my Granddaughter who started her training this term. She may have to struggle to find time to read them, but to me they are the nearest she can now come to receiving advice and information from her Granddad. Many thanks.

  3. Sue,

    Many thanks. Your Granddaughter may also wish to visit our new site at http://www.teachvac.co.uk where we will provide intelligence about teaching posts as they arise for September 2015. Our newsletter will provide helpful tips about the job market and applying for your first teaching post. I am delighted you think that I can in some small way follow in Andrew’s footsteps.


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