This week’s news of a new teaching apprenticeships pilot was met with mixed reviews: most media carried a dutiful rehash the DfE’s press release and web page, with the Telegraph picking up one of the few interesting angles: the prospect of eighteen-year-olds teaching in our schools.
For those of us already in the profession, the idea of a teaching degree apprenticeship à la Dyson is enough to bring us out in hives when we consider the safeguarding implications.
On closer inspection the scheme seems to have two aims: the first is to give those who are already working in schools, such as the state sector’s 400,000 teaching assistants, a pathway into the profession.
The government’s teacher recruitment crisis is now a hardy perennial: December saw another unsettling report on initial teacher training recruitment figures for this academic year. Targets were exceeded in English, history, classics and PE. However, recruitment levels were 63 per cent in maths and chemistry, 44 per cent in RS, 33 per cent in modern foreign languages, 27 per cent in music and DT, and just 17 per cent in physics.
“The idea of a teaching degree apprenticeship à la Dyson is enough to bring us out in hives.”
The second is to encourage the training of maths teachers in particular. This is interesting, in that the crisis in recruiting maths teachers, while significant, is nowhere near as acute as it is in say computing or physics. The DfE’s recruitment targets this year for maths and physics teachers were numerically very similar: 2960 mathematicians (of whom 1,852 new entrants were enrolled) and 2,820 physicists, of whom just 484 were enrolled. (BESA states that there are 4,190 secondary schools.)
So why the focus on maths? One obvious explanation given is a desire to fulfil the aims of the recently-published proposal relating to the new flagship qualification for post- 16: the Advanced British Standard. The consultation about this closes in March. The ABS supports the prime minister’s vision of all pupils continuing with maths and English until the age of 18. The initial reaction has of course been ‘who is going to teach all of these seventeen and eighteen year olds whom Rishi Sunak wants to do more maths?’
“Will teaching assistants develop the mastery to teach maths in Key Stage 5?”
Bids are open for providers to begin training apprentice maths teachers in Autumn 2025. All 150 apprentices in the pilot. The timeframe for the ABS is “roll-out over the next decade”. Given that there must be a general election by late January 2025, you may well have stopped reading by this point.
We might also wonder how many teaching assistants are going to develop the mastery of the subject required to teach maths in Key Stage 5; my instinct is that they may well seek to train in primary settings – where UK Gov is already hitting 96 per cent of the recruitment target – or in Key Stages 3 and 4, where they are already likely to be working.
Seeing ‘apprenticeships’ ‘maths’ ‘teacher recruitment targets’ and ‘ABS’ in one announcement feels like a full house in DFE buzzword bingo. The agenda here remains firmly political, and in this Zeitgeist it may well be another missed opportunity.
“In reality, we are already running an apprenticeship scheme.”
Meanwhile many schools in the independent sector, Magdalen College School included, continue to partner with ITT providers to train talented graduates to enter the profession.
In reality, we are already running an apprenticeship scheme. It is nothing like on the scale that is required to resolve the national teacher recruitment crisis, but it reminds us that graduates will join the profession if they are decently-paid as professionals, which I fear these proposed apprentices will not be.
Might the state sector consider opening its doors to unqualified graduates with relevant degrees as teachers rather than apprentices, and drop its insistence on the QTS route?
The solutions needed to fix our recruitment and retention crisis are more extensive, expensive and urgent than this week’s announcement suggests.