School of Education

Teacher Training Bursaries in England

This new report from Andrew Noyes, Corinna Geppert, Joanna Mcintyre looks at teacher training bursaries in England and analyses their impact on the quantity and quality of trainees. 

Executive summary

The challenge of recruiting sufficient numbers of high quality teachers is common to many countries. In England, one of the strategies employed by government to incentivise entry to Initial Teacher Training (ITT) has been teacher bursaries. This unusual approach is set in the context of policy moves designed to establish education markets that will, it is hoped, increase competition, drive up quality and reduce inefficiency.

The re-landscaping of ITT has been underway for some time but was accelerated under the 2010 coalition government as part of a drive to improve quality and diversity in teacher education. The scale of bursary payments has changed since that time but the relationship between bursaries for teacher trainees, target numbers and recruitment remains unclear. Bursaries signal market value with some remaining high, some low and others fluctuating considerably over time. It is estimated that annual spend on the bursary programmes is somewhere between £167 and £292 million.

ITT bursaries are based on a flawed premise, namely that teacher quality can be predicted by degree outcome and that this is regardless of the relationship of the degree discipline to the subject taught.*  Additionally there is no evidence to support the notion that bursaries are attracting and retaining more people to stay in the profession, especially in shortage subjects (Allen et al 2017).

Our primary recommendation is, therefore, that bursaries should be minimised or stopped and this resource be redistributed to evidence-informed strategies for supporting teachers to stay in the profession. This would be a more justifiable means of increasing teacher quality given the known relationship between years of service and teacher effectiveness. This would shift the emphasis from recruitment of applicants to better supporting early and ongoing professional development and retention.

*The training bursary level awarded is dependent on the subject in which a trainee wishes to teach and the grade of their highest academic qualification – not the subject of their academic qualification. For instance, a trainee with a first class degree in English will be eligible for a £26,000 training bursary if they are training to teach physics, and £15,000 if training to teach English. This does not change the process of selection or recruitment that the ITT provider would go through, including making judgements about the relevance of the degree to the subject of training.

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Posted on Monday 11th March 2019

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