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Could a Fee-Free Route into Teaching Solve the Recruitment Crisis?

Faced with a recruitment crisis, Ashcroft High School is looking at how a fee-free route into teaching could help, says Julie Ellins...

  • Could a Fee-Free Route into Teaching Solve the Recruitment Crisis?

Ashcroft High School is located in Luton, Bedfordshire. It’s an area which, due to its close proximity to London, has a similarly high-cost housing market; however, this is paired with a low average salary.

As a result of this disparity, we have historically faced considerable difficulties recruiting new teachers to our school as well as retaining our existing staff.

Earlier this year, we made the decision to utilise the newly-launched Teaching Apprenticeship Programme, (TAP), devised by The Education Placement Group (EPG), as a way to recruit talent to our school and more easily access the government’s apprenticeship levy funding – which provides our school with grants to support the recruitment of graduates.

The training programme began in September, with 14 apprentice teachers starting at our school, and will run for one year. Over those 12 months, the graduates are guided towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and End Point Assessment (EPA).

One of the key benefits for the apprentices is that it has enabled them to embark on a fee-free and more hands-on route to achieving QTS – and for us, it has been a simple way for our school to address long-standing recruitment and retention issues.

Homegrown talent

Another valuable benefit of the apprenticeship programme has been the opportunity to embed graduates into Ashcroft from day one – effectively growing our own teachers.

It has allowed us to integrate them as members of staff straight away, and train them specifically to our school’s unique way of operating.

It has also given the apprentices an opportunity to build relationships with our teachers and students and understand the ethos and culture of our school, prior to potentially taking up permanent positions here.

The apprentices are mentored by our current staff, work one-on-one with students, observe lessons and will eventually take their own classes – indeed, some have already begun doing so. Throughout the process, we have worked hand-in-hand with EPG to make sure the graduates feel well supported.

Implementing this programme in our school has not been without its challenges – initially, there was some additional work involved in setting up the TAP and preparing senior staff to mentor and support the apprentices.

However, now that the foundation for the programme has been laid, we anticipate being able to run it more efficiently in the future and the benefits of bringing numerous enthusiastic graduates into our school far offset the extra work involved at the beginning.

Practical learning

The feedback we have received from the apprentices has been extremely positive – they feel well supported by our senior staff and have enjoyed the hands-on approach to training.

Many have commented that they may not have considered entering the profession without the opportunity to learn on the job, as Harry Thurstance, a trainee history teacher, confirms.

“The option arose to take part in the on-the-job route with the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme and it seemed like the right fit for me,” he says. “Rather than spending all my time studying in a classroom, I liked the idea of being able to learn while in a school.

“It’s a practical approach to learning – the initial week of the programme was mainly observing, then in the second week I taught several lessons, under the observation of a senior history teacher.

“There was a vast amount of information to absorb at first, but the support was there, and I’ve been able to learn how this particular school works, which has been really beneficial.

“Throughout the teaching apprenticeship, I have been really well supported by my mentor – he’s brilliant and has provided me with a wealth of helpful tips and feedback.

“I’ve had the chance to observe his lessons and learn from his teaching methods, some of which I aim to replicate in my own classes. I would definitely recommend this pathway into teaching to others who are considering entering the profession but want an alternative and cost-effective route.”

Julie Ellins is business manager and a member of the SLT at Ashcroft High School. Find out more about the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme at teachingapprenticeships.com.

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