Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Tough Times for Teacher Training after Cuts to Core: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Tough Times for Teacher Training after Cuts to Core: News

Article excerpt

Universities lose income and input as ITT funding diverted to School Direct. John Elmes reports.

Christmas cheer may be hard to come by in university education departments this year after the latest cut in provisional places for initial teacher training left some institutions facing income shortfalls of more than Pounds 1 million.

Many universities have suffered substantial reductions in the number of core postgraduate places for training teachers as the government continues to push its School Direct programme.

The only university providers whose places have been protected are those that have been rated as "outstanding" by Ofsted; others have seen huge losses.

London South Bank University and the University of St Mark and St John have been hardest hit, losing all their core places in the 2014-15 allocations.

Liverpool Hope University - rated as "requires improvement" by Ofsted for its primary provision - saw a fall of 69.3 per cent, losing all its primary postgraduate core places. The University of Hertfordshire suffered a cut of 53.2 per cent and York St John University 49.4 per cent.

Peter Strike, vice-chancellor of the University of Cumbria - which saw a 44.2 per cent decrease in its number of core places, more than half of which were in primary ITT - expressed his annoyance that, in supporting School Direct (where trainees are recruited by schools) and being one of the main training providers for the scheme, Cumbria was "paying a big price".

Universities can still secure funding from the government if they help to train teachers recruited through School Direct, but at a much reduced rate per student.

"(The government is) not really addressing the issues of loss of funding and the instability that that will cause," he said, adding that the scale of the cuts meant that Cumbria would lose Pounds 1.5 million in income on top of what it had already lost in 2013-14 in a previous round of cuts.

"That's another tranche of staff who will lose their jobs," he said.

Although Professor Strike said it was good to see Cumbria's model of supporting School Direct "appreciated" by school partners, he believes the process is "undermining our own business" by encouraging the transfer of training to schools.

"There will have to be some rebalancing because the amount of effort we're putting in is taking time and resources out of our institution," he explained.

Michael Day, director of the School of Education at the University of Roehampton, which has lost 43 per cent of its allocations, said it was "very unhappy" with the mechanism for allocation of places that "mixed (Ofsted) inspection grades under the old inspection framework with inspection grades under the new".

"To mix and match grades from the old/new system when they do allocations is, in my view, very unfair," he said. "(It) puts us at a disadvantage in the allocation round." (Roehampton was rated "good" by Ofsted under the new framework.)

Roehampton's loss of core places has not been completely compensated for by gains in School Direct places.

"We've lost something like 140 primary PGCE places, that's a loss in income of well over Pounds 1 million. The university has to think through the implications of that," Professor Day said.

Social responsibility

Anthony Kelly, head of the Education School at the University of Southampton, agreed that there were financial concerns. However, he said that universities have other motivations for being involved in teacher training.

"(Southampton) - and others like it - is committed to ITT as part of its social enterprise agenda," Professor Kelly said. …

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