Institute for Learning
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IfL highlights concerns about funding for teacher training

The Institute for Learning (IfL) has expressed its concerns about proposed teacher training reforms and the implications of higher and further education funding changes for initial teacher training (ITT) in the further education and skills sector.

In its responses to two government consultations – Attracting, training and retaining the best teachers and New challenges, new chances: next steps in implementing the further education reform programme – IfL highlighted several policy areas for closer examination and review. It was particularly concerned about the sector’s ability to attract experts from industry into the teaching workforce when ITT tuition fees rise significantly from 2012, and the lack of parity between teacher training opportunities in different parts of the education sector.

IfL’s chief executive, Toni Fazaeli, said, “Our data shows that the average age of new teachers and trainers coming into our sector is around 37, by which time individuals are likely to have a family, mortgage, and other financial commitments, including perhaps existing student loans. The prospect of taking on additional debt of at least £6,000 for ITT qualifications could deter them from moving into teaching as a second profession, where their pay is likely to be lower.

“We owe our international competitiveness, the influence of our innovation and the strength of our communities to the skills of our teachers and trainers, and we should be welcoming the most talented individuals into our sector with open arms. It cannot be right that while teacher training in schools attracts generous bursaries of up to £20,000 for priority subjects, there is no such support for those wishing to teach or train in FE and skills, even if their professional expertise lies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“We also believe that the Troops to Teachers programme should be funded for FE and skills as well as schools, so that those leaving the armed forces can choose to bring their vast talents in areas such as engineering; mechanics; leadership and management; catering and hospitality; IT; healthcare and so on to the post-16 sector. From April 2012, teachers with Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status will be able to teach in schools, and we think that the facility for young people from the age of 14 to benefit from being taught by vocationally trained experts should be at the heart of our education system.

“As well as changes to higher and further education funding, the £400 government grant that trainee teachers can currently claim through IfL for ITT qualifications is being discontinued after March 2012. The dramatic change in the accessibility of post-compulsory teacher training is unprecedented and poses significant risks to the sustainability of our high-quality teaching workforce. The education select committee should recommend an urgent review of the likely implications and potential remedies to mitigate the impact of tuition fee increases, such as writing off student debt for trainee teachers, providing tax relief or offering generous bursaries on a par with those for school teacher trainees.”

IfL's concerns are shared by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), whose executive director, James Noble-Rogers, said, “The new fees regime could undo progress towards professionalisation and parity of esteem with schools, have an adverse impact on widening participation and damage the quality of students' education. The problem could  easily be solved through bursaries or a continuation of direct funding for training courses.”

In its responses to the consultations, IfL also welcomed proposals by Ofsted to place a heavier emphasis on teaching and learning, and said that inspection reports should specifically include comments about literacy and numeracy in the teaching and learning section. It called for a cross-departmental approach to adult and community learning, because of the wider impact on government objectives, and reiterated its call for an independent inquiry into vocational pedagogy.

NoteIfL’s responses to the two consultations, Attracting, training and retaining the best teachers and New challenges, new chances: next steps in implementing the further education reform programme, are available to download in PDF format at http://www.ifl.ac.uk/policy-and-campaigns/consultations