Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Silence on Promised Bursaries Leaves FE Recruitment in Limbo: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Silence on Promised Bursaries Leaves FE Recruitment in Limbo: Fe News

Article excerpt

Uncertainty over help with fees is putting potential teachers off.

In November, skills minister John Hayes defused a crisis in the recruitment of FE teachers by announcing a bursary system to offset the impact of higher fees for training. And then, nothing. As universities and colleges report seeing potential students walk away because of a lack of financial support, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) maintains a "crypto-Trappist" silence.

That is the phrase of James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers. He used a speech to the Association of South East Colleges on Wednesday to criticise the government's failure to deliver on Mr Hayes' promise: to offer bursaries that rival the maximum of Pounds 20,000 for the most highly qualified would-be schoolteachers in shortage subjects.

FE's teaching body, which takes on about 20,000 new trainees a year, is generally made up of older recruits. A number of these are beginning a second career and, in many cases, take a pay cut in order to pass on their skills. Teacher training organisations have warned that this combination of factors makes the idea of taking on 30-year loans to fund higher course fees even less attractive.

"If you price potentially good teachers out of the market, you damage people's education. It is as simple as that," Mr Noble-Rogers said. "Why would someone with a mortgage and other commitments leave a steady career to work in what is already a volatile and uncertain sector (when they) have to pay for the privilege of doing so?"

The frustration is all the greater because trainers of FE teachers thought they had won the battle. For about a year, organisations from the Institute for Learning to the University and College Union warned that recruitment would be harmed by the dramatic hike in university fees. BIS commissioned a report from the Association of Colleges, which recommended that FE teacher training should be protected from fees in the same way that some science subjects are. But no action was taken.

Eventually, Mr Hayes told the Association of Colleges' annual conference in November: "To ensure that our teachers are the best in the world and have access to higher education, I can announce today that we will introduce a bursary for initial teacher training."

Mr Hayes promised that the bursaries would be comparable to the programme for schools. However, Mr Noble-Rogers is now losing faith. He said that he suspects there may be no funding for bursaries beyond the existing Pounds 11 million scheme. In previous years, this has contributed Pounds 400 towards course fees - hardly enough when part-time students will pay more than 10 times that amount from September. …

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