The vice-chancellor of the University of Cumbria has described local schools’ “outrage” and “genuine dismay” at the government’s recent initial teacher training allocations.
Not only have its own core places fallen for the third year in succession, but Cumbria’s numbers for School Direct (the flagship government programme where training is provided by schools in partnership with universities) have dropped by about 400 places (44.6 per cent) for 2015-16.
Since 2012-13, Cumbria is projected to have missed out on £2.1 million in income as it has lost trainees pursuing postgraduate certificates in education and taking part in School Direct, something its vice-chancellor, Peter Strike, said was extremely damaging.
“It’s such a large part of what we do while, frankly, the loss of a hundred student numbers here or there for a big Russell Group university is not going to challenge the viability of their institution,” he said.
But he added that it was also school partners who were angered after spending “scarce resources building their infrastructure to engage with School Direct”.
In a statement to Cumbria, Sharon Sanderson and June Venus, two headteachers who are part of a training consortium of local schools, say they had “invested much of our own school budgets into marketing” after gaining 12 places this year.
“‘Gutted’, ‘furious’ and ‘baffled’ are a few of the words used to express our feelings when we were informed…our allocations [were] to be cut to just five for the next academic year,” they write.
They add that their EtC Training Consortium of seven schools now had to decide whether to “abandon the project and waste the investment, both emotional and financial”, or continue at a loss, with staff preparing comprehensive training for an “inconsequential number” of trainees.
Ms Sanderson, head of Brunswick Infant School, told Times Higher Education that the programme is “unlikely to survive” in its current form. “This experience will make us reluctant to embark on this type of activity without reassurances,” she added.
Richard Wilson, assistant head and staff lead in School Direct at Burton Morewood Church of England Primary Academy, said its partner schools were “facing viability issues”, while Sheila Johnston, head of Trinity School, Carlisle – the lead school in another local partnership – was also disappointed with the allocations. “We bid for 30 [primary] places and received 16, fewer than the 20 received last year,” she said. “This is such a shame when we have so many primary schools involved, all of whom contributed a bit of funding last year to get the scheme going.”
Professor Strike questioned the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s “Byzantine” allocations methodology, which he said had been “weighted in direct proportion to the number of requests made…The premise based on this year’s allocations is that the right tactic is to ask for many more numbers than you actually need,” he said. “Those more moderate in their requests, but [who] still asked for an increase on the back of a proven track record, as we did, have seen our numbers halved.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said that it had been able to meet two-thirds of requests for School Direct places from schools in Cumbria. “In allocating places, our overall aim is to ensure enough people are trained to meet the needs of the whole school system,” she said.