Non-graduate teaching apprenticeships

Posted By: The Teach Now Team

Is this long-standing idea about to come of age and finally go into action?

It’s not exactly a new idea. On the contrary, the government has been trying to find a viable way into teaching for applicants without a degree for quite some time as part of its on-off attempts to ease the UK’s chronic shortage of teachers and teaching assistants. The crisis is exacerbated by the sector’s increasingly dire teacher retention performance. Figures released at the end of last year show that a record 43,997 teachers left the state sector in the 2021-2022 academic year alone. And the number leaving after just one year is creeping insidiously upward: from 12.4% in 2020 to 12.8% in 2021. The sector’s inability to keep hold of fresh talent means we have less and less experience in the classroom.  But how can non-graduate teaching apprenticeships help? The short answer is that while it won’t do much to improve retention – that’s a subject for another article on another day, one that focuses on confidence-building, encouragement, and support for teachers old and new. What it can do, though, is open teaching’s doors to a broader cross-section of people with diverse backgrounds. It will attract those who have wanted a career change but need a way to earn while they learn their new profession – people who will bring a host of different kinds of experience and a wealth of new expertise from their previous careers. That can only be a benefit to pupils’ learning experience in the classroom.

But haven’t we already got teacher apprenticeships?

Well, yes – and while it’s reasonably successful, with 630 people being awarded the qualification in 2021-2022 and 962 applying this academic year, it’s only open to people with a degree. That, according to the Department for Education, is the point, claiming that its new teacher apprenticeship will provide that degree – as part of a “high-quality, alternative route for people to become qualified teachers” and “diversify the route into teaching so schools across the country can continue to recruit the teachers they need”. 

Furthermore, it’s not just career-changers that the scheme will help into the profession, the DfE goes on to point out that it could also be a boon to teaching assistants who don’t have a degree, enabling them to develop their careers by training “on the job” to become a teacher.

According to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, this could be a,

 “…game-changing opportunity for schools to nurture and retain talent from the ground up, helping apprentices to gain the knowledge and skills they need to teach future generations.” she continues “The teacher degree apprenticeship will open up the profession to more people, from those who want a career change to those who are looking for an earn and learn route without student debt.”

Not everyone’s in favour

On the face of it, the new scheme seems very much in keeping with the Teach Now way of working with our candidates – looking at the long term and investing time and energy in the nurture and development of teachers’ careers. And anything that gets more well-trained and motivated new teachers into the nation’s classrooms should be welcomed. That’s not to say there are no concerns. The NAHT’s (the school leaders’ union) Paul Whiteman has been quoted as saying the union is,“…supportive of apprenticeships, but our view is that the threshold for entry onto teacher training should continue to include holding a degree.

“We remain very concerned about any proposals that look to truncate degrees and teacher training, as this scheme does.”

To be fair to the DfE’s proposal, it really does culminate in a degree qualification – although they haven’t yet made clear whether it will actually be awarded by universities or whether separate teacher-training organisations will have the power to award the degrees. That said, the DfE is keen to reassure sceptics that there’ll be no compromise in the quality of training under the scheme, saying that it is, “working with subject experts and the trailblazer group to co-develop how universities and schools offering the TDA can ensure secondary subject specialism is comprehensive and high-quality”and that courses, “must adhere to the ITT criteria, encompass all aspects of the ITT core content framework (CCF) and enable trainees to meet the teacher standards”.

Because the government will cover all tuition fees, apprentices won’t be lumbered with student debt like conventionally trained student teachers – and they can expect to spend about 40% of their working time studying for their degree. Of course, then there’s the question of whether apprenticeships will be earning a living wage while they learn – and it is to be hoped that rates will be far more generous than the current first-year apprentice minimum wage for a 16-18 year-old of a mere £5.28 per hour!

Maths pilot scheme to take off this autumn

The plan is to begin inviting applications to a pilot scheme for Maths teachers developed by a “trailblazer group” of employers this autumn before the DfE starts working “with a small number of schools and teacher training providers to fund up to 150 apprentices to work in secondary schools to teach maths”.

Like the team at Teach Now, we’re sure school leaders and prospective teacher apprentices will be watching the pilot’s progress with interest. Of course, the devil will be in the details of how the scheme works in practice – so here’s a more detailed overview of what it entails and how it will work: