The government’s shift towards a school-led system of initial teacher training (ITT) has made it “unsustainable” for universities to employ full-time members of staff, a report has found.
The impact of initial teacher training reforms on English higher education institutions, the latest report in Universities UK’s series on the funding environment for universities in 2014, said that the rise of School Direct, which allows schools to recruit trainees directly and choose which ITT providers they would like to work with, has had serious implications on the quality of provision, resource and staffing for higher education institutions.
“In order to sustain courses with low core allocations, many universities are now teaching various secondary subjects generically,” the report said. “Not only can this impact the trainees themselves, as it reduces the amount of time spent learning about subject-specific pedagogy, but it also affects staffing.
“In some cases, it has now become unsustainable to employ full-time members of staff, and some universities have decided to employ associate lecturers or seconded school staff to address this issue.”
The report adds that while institutions continue to value a strong level of engagement with schools, the balance in the allocations model has “swung too quickly” towards School Direct and away from universities.
Should ITT provision become “unsustainable for some institutions” there would be “significant implications” for the diversity of wider ITT delivery, the options available to students and the choices available to schools looking for university partners with which to co-deliver School Direct training programmes.
As reported by Times Higher Education last week, Anglia Ruskin University is the most recent institution to leave the teacher education landscape and there have been repeated warnings in the sector that others could follow.
“This report’s findings prove how dangerous a path the government is taking as it sidelines university teacher training courses,” UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said. “For the first time next year, School Direct trainees will outnumber university teacher training students, yet [the scheme] isn’t even filling all its places.
“If politicians persist with this policy, university teacher training departments will be in grave danger, despite being the engine houses for the next generation of maths and physics teachers that our schools and economy so desperately need.”