Do bursaries work?

I have been catching up on some of the reading I have missed from earlier in the summer. One document I hadn’t found time for until now was the Initial teacher training performance profiles: 2014 to 2015 published by the DfE in late July. Although the data deals with trainees, excluding Teach First and any remaining EBITT trainees, granted QTS in 2015, there are some important pointers buried within the data. It seems clear that the high levels of bursary haven’t always worked.

 The number of trainees granted QTS having taken a Physics ITT course appears to have peaked in 2011/12 at 629. In 2014/15 the number granted QTS was just 509, some 120 trainees fewer than in 2011/12, or around 20% less. Even more alarming is the fact that total trainee numbers in 2014/15 had been 614, so apparently 105 trainees didn’t receive QTS. That’s a completion rate of just 83% according to the DfE; the lowest amongst the subjects with a completion rate quoted by the DfE (Table 6 in main tables of Statistical Bulletin 31/2016). In mathematics, the completion rate was a much healthier 94%, but this still meant only 2,082 trainees were awarded QTS, some 400 fewer than in 2011/12.

The mathematics figures show that the number in a teaching post rose over the last three years up to 2014/15, to reach 1,847 in all types of school. This suggests that the bursary for mathematics may have made a difference. However, in Physics, the number recorded as in a teaching post was only 443 in 2014/15, down from a high of 535 in 2011/12, albeit a year during the middle of the recession. As the DfE model estimated need at around 1,000 physics trainees in 2014/15, this would suggest only 50% of potential need was met. The worrying factor is that a high proportion of these new Physics teachers may well have ended up in either an independent school or a grammar school as these are types of school most likely to have advertised for a teacher of physics according to TeachVac data.

One the face of it, the bursary and associated scholarships offered don’t seem to have attracted enough potential teachers of physics into the profession and of these attracted a higher than expected percentage don’t seem to have made it through to QTS. Whether this is due to them leaving courses early or not being judged to have reached an acceptable standard isn’t possible to tell from the data.

With a growing percentage of Physics trainees located in schools on the Salaried or Fee School Direct routes, it seems likely that the ‘free pool’ of trainees has also diminished over the past few years. In that respect, we need to know more about how many of the 440 or so in a teaching post trained in the school where they are now working and how many were in the independent sector? This would make clear the likely number available for maintained schools not participating in the School Direct programme?

Whatever the numbers, there needs to be more Physics trainees to meet the demands of the growing school population over the next decade.


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