21.The National Audit Office reported that the Department for Education (the Department) had spent £620 million on bursaries over the five years to 2014–15 and plans to spend £167 million each year in 2015–16 and 2016–17. The Department awarded almost 16,400 bursaries in 2014–15. For 2016–17, these range from £3,000 for applicants in a number of specialisms to £30,000 for a physicist with a first class degree. The Department told us that it reviews the number of applicants to train each year and by how much this has risen or fallen and adjusts bursary levels accordingly in order to reduce or increase incentives. The National Audit Office found that the Department, based on statistical analysis of bursaries in 2012–13 and a qualitative study for 2013–14, had established a link between bursaries and the number of applications to train. However, the Department has not assessed the impact of bursaries on the numbers who go on to complete their training and teach in schools or, indeed, whether recipients would have applied anyway without the incentive of a bursary.
22.The National College confirmed that it was not currently tracking individuals who receive bursaries and therefore did not know how many recipients went into teaching jobs and how many dropped out. The National College also confirmed that it did not claim back bursaries from individuals who failed to go into teaching but that a trainee’s monthly payments ceased if they withdrew from their course. Similarly, the National College told us that individuals who sign up to the “future teacher scholars” programme (a pilot to attract future teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics) would be eligible for a financial incentive of £5,000 a year for three years and early school experience and training. Although in this instance the scholarship must be repaid if the individual does not go into teaching, the National College will not know how many recipients would have gone on to study at university and then gone on to teach anyway. Eligibility for bursaries and scholarships varies. For bursaries, the Department confirmed that applicants must be nationals from within the European Economic Area or Crown dependencies; for the future teaching scholars programme, applicants must be a European Union national planning to study a mathematics- or physics-related degree in an English university. The National College told us that it plans to link its initial teacher training data directly with the school workforce census in order to track individuals who receive bursaries and scholarships better in future and to understand more about the connection between where people train and where they go on to teach. The Department also agreed to evaluate the impact of bursaries annually, in a way similar to how it had in 2012–13.
23.The Association of Teachers and Lecturers stated that increasing bursaries distorted the level of salary that graduate recipients expected upon completing their training. It pointed out that those receiving a tax-free bursary of £30,000 were unlikely to find posts attractive which only offered salaries at the minimum end of the main teachers’ pay scale. Birmingham City University and the National Association of Headteachers pointed to the differences in salary for teachers between London and elsewhere, and with other professions. The National Audit Office reported that the basic salary for a teacher outside London was a taxable £22,244 and that whilst the Department intended that bursaries would encourage schools to use their freedom to pay higher salaries, funding constraints make this unlikely. The National Audit Office also concluded that the Department needed to show how its arrangements were more cost-effective than alternative expenditure, for instance on improving retention.
24.In response to missing its recruitment targets for the last four years, the Department told us that it had launched a number of programmes, initiatives and new approaches to attract more people into teaching—in addition to bursaries. For example, it has expanded school-led training and increased the number of routes into teaching to eight through the introduction of School Direct and smaller routes, such as Troops to Teachers (that 28 people have completed) and Researchers in Schools. The National College has also changed the way it allocates training places to providers each year, it told us, to grow the School Direct market. Most recently, for 2016–17, the National College set overall maximum recruitment numbers by subject but, unlike previously, has not placed limits on individual providers. The National College admitted that by growing the School Direct programme, it had “created more volatility in the system” and acknowledged that it had “unfortunately been learning as we go, just as the providers have.”
25.The National Audit Office found that the Department could not compare the retention or quality of teachers trained through different routes and did not have sufficient information about the long-term costs and impact on teaching standards. We asked the Department and National College whether, as standard procedure, they plan from the outset to evaluate the effectiveness of their activities. As with bursaries, the National College told us that it now plans to link its initial teacher training data with the school workforce census in order to track individuals and better understand the connection between where people train and subsequently go on to teach. The National College also said that it was currently unable to demonstrate the effectiveness of some of its initiatives because they had only been recently introduced. However, other initiatives have been running for longer but remain inadequately evaluated. For example, the National College told us that School Direct, its largest school-led training route, had been running with significant numbers since 2013, with the first significant cohort of 6,500 trainees finishing their training in 2014 and entering the school workforce from September 2014. The Department has issued bursaries since 2010.
26.We were concerned that the Department’s approach to attracting more people into teaching appeared reactive, rather than planned and considered. The Department told us that it did need to be reactive “to some extent”. This, it explained, was because labour markets change very quickly and it needed to adapt its policies accordingly. The Department also pointed out that while it attempts to take a longer-term view, through its teacher supply model, it did not try to predict exactly what the world was going to be like in 10 years’ time and make its policies adapt. The Department told us that, although it finds it reasonably easy to predict pupil numbers at a national level, predicting where in the country those pupils will need school places is increasingly difficult because the general population is more mobile. As a result, the Department explained that its teacher supply model at present mainly looked three years ahead. The Department described how another aspect of its longer-term approach related to making sure there were enough people taking A-levels in shortage subjects, and then going on to take degrees in those subjects.
27.The Department told us about two new separate initiatives it had recently launched: a £67 million set of measures to encourage more trainees in ‘STEM’ subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and the new National Teacher Service aimed at encouraging good teachers to move to challenging areas. Parts of the new STEM package include the £5,000 future teaching scholars programme to engage A-level students to commit to teaching in return for some financial incentives during their undergraduate programme and early training in schools as well as subject knowledge enhancement courses for existing teachers. The National College launched this package last year and is currently training over 2,000 existing teachers. It told us that it will look to learn from the programme over time and make changes “year on year”. The Department has launched the National Teaching Service as a pilot in the North West, starting in September 2016.
55 , para 16
58 , para 16
59 Department for Education and the National College for Teaching and Leadership para 7
60 ; Department for Education and National College for Teaching and Leadership paras 2, 5, 8
63 Association of Teachers and Lecturers , para 8
65 , paras 23, 2.13
67 , para 3; Figure 1
69 ; , para 3.9
70 , paras 15, 19
78 ; , para 1.22
2 June 2016