Mixed concerns over cuts to teacher training funding
Today, I attended the Train to Teach event hosted by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) in Birmingham which is an annual gathering of potential recruits, second or final year students considering a postgraduate course in teaching, and people considering a change and the transition to the education sector.
Representatives, staff and admissions tutors were on hand to answer any questions, and the TDA provided a range of free materials and information including the established TDA Teacher Magazine as well as advice on making an application. Upon entering the Thinktank Science Museum in Birmingham, I was informed that there would be a number of talks on teacher training, submitting a successful application and the chance to meet people from several Midlands universities.
It was a successful couple of days, running from Friday to Saturday, based on the large numbers of people who had flocked to discover more about this profession. Teachers were on hand to provide information and advice about the first year of teacher training, and there was an overwhelming presence of the TDA trying its hardest to find candidates with degrees in science, mathematics, engineering or languages, apparently priority subjects according to several promotional sources.
I spoke with admissions tutors and representatives from the major Midlands and Birmingham universities, and asked the same question: “What is the current situation regarding teacher training and are you concerned about any cuts to the education sector? What’s been scrapped – and what remains?”
Surprisingly, the response was similar across the board – universities simply do not know, and the uncertainty for next year’s allocations of both funding and candidates remains a mystery. According to several sources, the government are yet to finalise the complete financial package for this year, although allocations for subjects – an increase in primary places and a decrease in secondary – has been revealed by Michael Gove in a letter addressed to the TDA from the Department for Education.
Students who wish to apply for a PGCE in Primary or Secondary Education for 2012 will need to check government websites on a regular basis. In addition, universities confirmed there was a national shortage of students with degrees in technical or mechanical subjects which is the reason as to why the government have scrapped bursaries for what they term ‘non-priority subjects’ such as English.
English was, several years ago, a ‘priority subject’ – but mathematics, science, languages and engineering have never been in such huge demand as now. A university admissions tutor, who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of upholding professionalism due to the uncertainty of facts and figures, said:
Funding for 2011 has been released by the government, and students are eligible to receive a maintenance loan and a tuition fees loan to cover the cost of the course. For 2012 I’m not sure what the arrangements will be, and we have already seen a decrease in the number of secondary places allocated for this year – but there was an increase in the number of primary places available. The government are really pushing for students with degrees and backgrounds in languages, science, maths or engineering to apply, which are shortage subjects. I’m told next year’s tuition fees for PGCE courses could be anywhere between £6,000 and £9,000 which is why lots of people have tried to apply this year. I’m not sure what financial support will be available next year to students, but I would think the tuition fee loan and some kind of repayable maintenance loan will be available... but the question is, how much? The government have scrapped bursaries in most areas but they still provide huge £9,000 bursaries for the technical or ‘in-demand’ subjects. With cuts to teacher training and financial packages being rethought, the government seem to be very clear on what they aim to achieve… high-calibre teachers who receive incentives and the right kind of support based on whether you are a priority candidate or not... the government definitely know what they’re doing as you also need a minimum of a 2:2 degree to even enter the profession, under plans announced by Michael Gove.
I discovered from discussion with reliable sources from universities, current teachers and staff that the government could effectively merge the TDA with the Department for Education to create a single department. According to one source, this could potentially restructure education but save millions of pounds in the process – exactly what the government aims to do in such stretching circumstances as they try to reduce Britain’s enormous deficit inherited from the previous Labour leadership. The overall picture is that of uncertainty and frustration at universities being forced to wait for allocation numbers and details of financial support for teacher training.