The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)’s new report on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) placements highlights the desire across the sector for better financial support from Government to host trainees. The report also finds that secondary schools in London offered fewer ITT placements than in other large cities, that academy schools were more likely to offer ITT placements than local-authority maintained schools, and that school leaders’ concerns over the burden on existing staff was a key consideration for offering placements.
The report, titled Initial Teacher Training Capacity in English Schools, was commissioned by MillionPlus and provides new data on the placements that schools offer, how those differ by school type, geography, Ofsted rating and deprivation level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a two-fold impact on the ITT system in England. First, part of the Government’s guidance on schools reopening safely is to keep visitors to the site to a minimum, causing a reduction in school-based teacher training places. This has combined with significantly increased demand for teacher training places due to a depressed wider labour market.
NFER, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, surveyed senior leaders across the country to find out more about their experience of recruitment and retention. This was to find out whether the demand for teacher training placements would exceed supply given the increase in applicants, Covid-19 restrictions, and the increased burden on schools.
School leaders were asked about how many teacher training placements they were planning to take in the 2020/21 academic year, how this compared to 2018/19, what considerations had influenced their offers, and what could motivate them to offer more placements.
Key findings from the analysis are outlined below:
Secondary schools in London offered fewer ITT placements than in other large cities.
Secondary schools in London were also less likely to offer at least one ITT placement than anywhere else in the country. Only 78 per cent of London secondary schools offered a placement, compared to 93 per cent in other large cities. Secondaries in London also offered fewer ITT placements per school than any other area.
School leaders agreed that the best incentive for schools to offer more placements would be increased financial support from the Government.
Across both primary and secondary schools, the most common change that leaders believed would encourage schools to take more ITT placements was increased financial support from Government. Aside from financial support, schools also agreed that incentives/recognition for providing trainee placements would be beneficial, as would increased support from ITT providers.
Secondary schools in academy trusts were more likely to offer at least one ITT placement, and on average offered more ITT placements than LA-maintained schools.
Secondary schools in single and multi-academy trusts offered more than 6 ITT placements on average per school, while their counterparts in local authority maintained schools offered 4.7. Academy secondary schools were also more likely to offer an ITT placement than LA schools, with 87 per cent of multi-academy trust schools, and 92 per cent of single-academy schools, offering at least one ITT placement, compared to 8 per cent of local authority maintained schools.
School leaders cited concerns over the burden on school staff to support ITT students as the driving factor behind their ITT plans.
Forty per cent of primary school leaders and 30 per cent of secondary schools stated that their worries about the burden on school staff to support ITT students had played a role in their school’s placement plans in the 2020/21 school year. In addition, 39 per cent of primary school leaders were concerned over having too many different people on the school site.
Schools that are well rated by Ofsted, and those which have pupils from more affluent backgrounds, are most likely to offer more ITT placements.
Schools which are rated Outstanding by Ofsted offered more ITT placements per school on average than those rated Good, Requires Improvement, or Inadequate. At secondary level, Outstanding schools averaged 7.4 placements per school, compared to 6.2 for Good schools and 4.9 for Requires Improvement/Inadequate. Outstanding primary schools meanwhile offered 2.6 placements on average per school, compared to 2.1 for Good schools and 1.8 for Requires Improvement/Inadequate.
Secondary schools with pupils from more affluent backgrounds also averaged a higher number of ITT placements than those with pupils from less affluent backgrounds. Those secondaries with pupils from the lowest quintile of pupils eligible for free school meals offered on average 7.8 placements per school, compared to 5.3 placements on average per school with pupils most likely to be eligible for free school meals. This gap was less pronounced at primary, where schools averaged 2.6 placements and 2.3 respectively.
Jack Worth, Lead Economist at NFER and report author, said:
“The surge in teacher training applications means that it is more important than ever to ensure we have a clear understanding of the availability of placement opportunities across England. We know how important practical, school-based, training is for prospective teachers, and we want to raise awareness of how this differs from school to school.
“This report highlights the variation across the country, provides insights into school leaders’ concerns over offering placements, and offers potential solutions to help to ensure schools are able to provide more placements in the future. Without further policy action to support schools, the current lack of placement and mentor capacity may risk the vision of the Market Review being fully realised.”