Ministers face calls for urgent review into teacher training

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee
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A PUBLIC spending watchdog has called for an urgent review of teacher training in England and warned the Government fails to understand the difficulties many schools face in recruiting teachers.

A Public Accounts Committee report published today says that while the Department for Education (DfE) has missed its targets to fill teacher training places for four years, it still has “no plan for how to achieve them in future”.

It also highlights wide variations in the availability of training places across England, noting also that schools in poorer areas, in isolated parts of the country and with low academic performance, struggle to recruit good teachers.

However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he rejected the report’s findings which failed to recognise “the significant work” already being done.

The PAC report found that the range of routes into teaching is confusing for applicants.

It suggested the DfE current approach to allocating training places could be a possible barrier to improving quality. And MPs on the committee were not convinced the DfE bursary scheme, on which it spent £620m over five years, delivers value for money. The report adds: “It does not track whether the recipients of bursaries go on to complete their training, qualify as teachers and enter the workforce in state-funded schools in England”.

The report raises concerns that a growing number of pupils are taught by teachers without a subject-relevant post A-level qualification,

And the PAC calls on Ministers to report back by the end of August on the extent and impact of teachers taking lessons in subjects they are not qualified in.

It also urges the DfE and the National College to develop “a clear plan” for teacher supply covering at least the next three years.

The same bodies should also set out “when and how” they will talk more to school leaders about recruitment issues “and demonstrate how they will use that information to plan interventions more carefully, especially the future location of training places”. PAC chairman and Labour MP Meg Hillier said: “Training teachers is too important to get wrong but the Government has taken too little responsibility for getting it right.

The DfE has repeatedly missed its target to fill training places. At the same time, it has remained woefully aloof from concerns raised by frontline staff and freely available evidence.”

She added: “It is a basic point but one worth spelling out for the Government’s benefit: variations in the supply and quality of teachers at local level can significantly affect pupils’ educational attainment and life prospects.”

Mr Gibb said despite some “local challenges” more people were entering the profession than leaving, with 13,100 more teachers than there were when the Conservatives came to office in 2010.

He said: “We simply do not recognise this picture of teacher training and are disappointed that this report fails to recognise the significant work already done, and the vision set out in the white paper, to increase the number of people entering the classroom,” he said.

“All of this is thanks to an aggressive and concerted approach to teacher recruitment including high profile media campaigns, new routes into teaching and generous bursaries.”