Apprenticeships are a form of study where candidates aged 16 and upwards combine working ‘on the job’ and studying to gain the relevant skills and knowledge base for a particular sector-focused job.
Since 2017, the government has been promoting this as a great option for young people, being significantly less expensive than university (candidates can earn while they learn rather than pay fees) while also equipping young people with the practical skills required for the workforce.
The teacher recruitment and retention crisis has been well documented, with the Department for Education reporting that the ratio of qualified teachers to pupils has increased from 17.8 in 2011 to 18.9 in 2018. Many ideas have been put forward as the best solution to meet this challenge: increasingly, using the apprenticeship route to train teachers is perceived as the best way to grow the UK’s teaching workforce for both schools and teacher trainees.
What is the apprenticeship levy?
Employers looking to train and assess an apprentice are eligible for government funding.
The apprenticeship levy is a UK tax on employers used to fund apprenticeship training, announced in the July 2015 budget, applicable to all employers with a payroll exceeding £3 million.
Employers that pay into the apprenticeship levy and who set up an apprenticeship service account will be able to use up to £9,000 of funding from this account to cover the cost of training and assessing the apprentice.
Accessing the apprenticeship levy is a budget-friendly opportunity for schools to ‘grow their own’ teachers and school staff in the midst of a severe recruitment and retention crisis: just 84.7% of those teachers who qualified in 2017 were still working in the sector after twelve months.
Using the levy to fund apprenticeships is also an invaluable solution to the high costs associated with teacher recruitment, with the average cost of recruiting a teacher £3,000 and some agency’ ‘finder’s fees’ costing as much as £10,000.
With these persistent education workforce recruitment and retention issues, it is vital that new routes into teaching are explored and funding is fully utilised.
Robyn Johnstone, CEO of teacher recruitment and retention specialist Education Placement Group, strongly believes more schools should consider signing up for teaching apprenticeship programmes. She says that “when schools have to count every penny, growing teachers organically through a funded programme makes a lot of sense. Growing your own teachers is a step change for Headteachers nationwide who are looking to fulfil their staffing requirements in a climate where numbers of NQTs are falling and qualified teachers are leaving the profession.”
The Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP)
• Graduates are employed by the school for a minimum of 12 months during their Initial Teacher Training (ITT)
• After nine months, they achieve Qualified Teacher Status and complete End-Point Assessment to pass the apprenticeship
• Graduates have the option to integrate the PGCE with TAP
• Apprenticeship Training is delivered by a Department for Education approved ITT trainer
• Trainee teachers are paid in line with the unqualified teacher salary scale starting at £21,641 in Inner London and £17,208 across the rest of the country
For more information on TAP, visit https://www.teachingapprenticeships.com/schools/
Gemma Longhurst is currently studying to be a music teacher at Carshalton Boys Sports College, London Borough of Sutton, through the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme delivered by teacher training provider e-Qualitas. She discusses the benefits of pursuing this route for schools and trainees, and how senior leaders can maximise the opportunities offered by the apprenticeship levy.
From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a teacher and by the age of 12 I was in serious discussions with my teacher regarding the steps I needed to take to ensure my musical skills were advanced enough for me to study the subject at university, with the ultimate aim of becoming a music teacher.
Part of the reason I am so inspired by teaching is the incredible impact that education has had in my own life. I come from a single parent family with a fairly low income so it would have been difficult to pay for music lessons. However, my teachers recognised my potential, offering me subsidised tuition so that my mum could afford flute, singing and piano lessons at school. Without this support I would have been unable to follow my dream of teaching music – so I know firsthand the transformative role a good teacher can play in a child’s life.
Upon completing my degree, my route into teaching was less straightforward. In my final year of university I applied for the Teach First Leadership Development Programme to complete my PGDE and teacher training. I was successful in this process, and was placed at a school in South London. Due to a number of complex and difficult reasons, I withdrew from the Teach First programme, deciding to take some time out and apply for a PGCE, which I planned to embark on in the following September.
During this interim period I was still eager to work in education so I found a job as an SEN support assistant – this is where I heard about an opportunity to train as a teacher apprentice with teacher training providers e-Qualitas at a school I thought very highly of and with which I had previous experience.
The Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) is a fee-free, salaried route for graduates to enter the teaching profession and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by the end of the year – this is required to teach in government maintained schools in the UK. Graduates also have the option to integrate a PGCE with the Teaching Apprenticeship with some providers like TAP. This is an additional academic qualification. A PGCE is not necessary to teach in the UK, but as many teachers have one and it is recognised internationally it is definitely something to consider.
When I learnt that the scheme comprised work-based training and that I would be solely based in a school I really liked, I knew this would be the perfect route for me. The university where I was going to complete my PGCE were also supportive of my decision, as they believed that with the amount of teaching experience I had, having more responsibility over my classes would present the right level of challenge to develop my teaching skills.
One of the reasons a work-based route was so appealing was because I wanted my training experience to match the everyday reality of full-time teaching – as a teaching apprentice you are solely responsible for your own classes and you are able to integrate yourself fully into one school rather than complete a number of different placements.
I wasn’t daunted by the thought of working in one school full-time as I had spent my time at university also volunteering and gaining teaching experience in the secondary school I attended as a pupil, and then I gained several months experience working in a school as a support assistant so I was already familiar with being immersed in a school’s environment and culture. I would say that the right route for graduates truly depends on whether the individual feels ready to be accountable to a school as a full-time employee, rather than being placed by a university and therefore under the training provider’s jurisdiction.
Despite the solo responsibility apprentices are afforded, the e-Qualitas programme provides trainees with a School Based Trainer (SBT) and a visiting tutor from e-Qualitas who are both incredibly supportive. My SBT is the Head of department and we have a really positive relationship. She is based in the classroom next door – if I am having any problems I never hesitate to approach her for advice. She also observes my lessons and gives me specific targets and areas on which to work so I know how to improve my teaching – both for my own development and with the view of completing my qualification successfully. My visiting tutor from e-Qualitas also visits me for further training and to complete formative lesson observations and check my progress ahead of my final assessment.
Furthermore, e-Qualitas runs a number of training days and modules to support your development of the course, which are useful and an opportunity to network and share experiences with other trainees on a similar journey.
The workload is obviously full on as you are balancing work with completing training, so it’s not by any means easy, but you do feel well supported throughout the process and with good organisation, it is all pretty manageable. Throughout the course I have accumulated a number of useful strategies and tricks to structure my time which means I have far more free time than I did before the October half term!
Having a say over where you train and work is incredibly empowering and has allowed me to develop my own personal teaching philosophy. It can be difficult to be placed somewhere which you know isn’t the right fit or aligned with your idea of how education should look. With the apprenticeship programme, you are employed by the school before even starting the course, which allows you to select a school where you will enjoy spending the next nine months working and studying!
Being immersed in school life from day one is challenging as you are treated as a full member of staff from the get-go – including leading extracurricular activities – but this is also what makes it wonderful. There are a lot of commitments, but the rewards are immense – completing extracurricular activities helps you build on positive relationships with other staff and the students. Taking responsibility for my own classes can be a lot of work and pressure, but it allows me to try out different teaching methods and behaviour management strategies, helping to build a sense of the kind of teacher I want to become.
For many people who have been working in a school setting for some time and would like to receive QTS it’s a great option as they can embark on the qualification without needing to leave a school or give up a salary for a year.
The benefits of teaching apprentices for schools are equally notable. School senior leadership teams are afforded a lot of autonomy as they select the apprentice themselves, as opposed to other processes where the organisation places a trainee without input from the school. Therefore, schools can employ a trainee who they feel will be an asset to the institution.
Additionally, hosting a trainee teacher enables schools to inform the apprentice of their school’s vision, helping senior leadership teams find and shape future full-time staff who will have the same priorities and focus as the school.
The financial advantage is significant too as apprentices are by nature cheaper than other employees. Schools can apply for grant funding to subsidise their salary (grants vary dependent upon subject and phase) but importantly the training is also paid for by the apprenticeship levy.
Teaching apprenticeships are a budget-friendly, easy way to improve staff retention at the school: the supportive nature of the course definitely encourages teachers to stick at it longer! It’s a tough job, but the level of care received means I feel free to experiment with new methods and make mistakes, which has led to a really enjoyable experience.
I feel lucky to be at a school I love: I am challenged and supported in equal measures and I know it’s where I would like to teach for the foreseeable future.