Schools to ‘grow their own’ teachers with PGCE apprenticeships
Apprenticeships have teaching and learning at their heart and yet schools have been slow to embrace them. All that is about to change, however, with the launch of new ways for them to “grow their own” teachers and fund training for staff, from classroom assistants to office workers and caretakers.
Hughenden Primary School, a small 180-pupil school in Buckinghamshire, is leading the way with a new level 3 qualification for teaching assistants. Meanwhile, the Advance Trust of four special schools in Worcestershire has worked with the University of Worcester to devise apprenticeships that lead to qualified teacher status. Some schools are using business apprenticeships for their office staff and others are exploring ways to provide apprenticeships for caretakers.
“For us, it’s a win-win situation,” says Alison Young, the Advance Trust’s business director. “We pay the employers levy and we get it back through apprenticeships that provide professional development for our staff. It enables us to invest in people who know our ethos and are committed to working in special schools as a career,” she says.
Most schools are apprenticeship levy payers through their trusts, and local authorities can claim money back from the fund for apprenticeship training. As employers, they can work with universities, colleges or other approved trainers to devise schemes that meet their needs. The creators of apprenticeships are called “trailblazers”, and their apprenticeships qualify for funding from the levy fund, once approved by the Institute forApprenticeships.
Advance Trust has three apprentice teachers this year and will have another two next year. “Courses are expensive and the £9,000 from the levy goes to the university and funds the external assessments so our apprentices do not have to pay fees. They continue to be employed and take a salary, and at the end of the year they are qualified teachers. As unqualified teachers or teaching assistants, they reach the salary bar quickly but as qualified teachers they unlock a whole new salary scale,” she adds.
It’s a long ambition realised for unqualified drama teacher Laura Brough, 26, who has been trying to find a way to qualify without losing her income. Since graduating five years ago with a degree in community drama, Laura has worked as an unqualified teacher for Advance Trust at Kingfisher School for children with social, emotional and mental health needs.
“I couldn’t afford to give up a salary. That’s why I was so excited to learn about this new route,” says Laura, who spends every other Friday and three separate weeks at the University of Worcester and is presently completing a 10-week placement at a primary school.
Laura says she had previously been disappointed after she was interviewed and accepted on a route into qualified teacher status and then had to turn it down because she found out it was unsalaried. “Now I’ll get the PGCE post-graduate teaching qualification as part of the apprenticeship. It has also given me the opportunity to experience different schools and age groups with three mentors to help me – the headteacher at Kingfisher School, the class teacher at the primary school where I am doing my placement and my mentor at the University of Worcester,” she says.
The TA apprenticeship at Hughenden School lasts 18 months and provides £5,000 of funding from the levy. The current qualifications for supporting teaching and learning were being phased out and the school wanted alternatives, explains Jenny Brinkworth, the office manager who led the trailblazing group of employers. “When you work in a school it’s important to keep looking forward and giving people the opportunity to improve their skill set,” she says.
“The exciting thing is that the teaching assistant apprenticeship standard has been written by people who work in schools. It has the school stamp on it,” she adds.
Farther north, schools in the Ebor Academy Trust around York, North Yorkshire, have 12 TA apprentices and plan to recruit more. “It’s a great opportunity to develop a really important group of staff that is sometimes in danger of being forgotten,” says Alison Taylor, the trust’s HR director. “What excites me about our apprenticeship is that it is not just a one-off – someone going on a course and coming back into school – but an on-going programme teaching fundamentals and then deeper levels of learning across the full range of their jobs,” she adds.
Apprenticeships were included as a postgraduate training choice on the Ucas website but last year not many providers of teacher training were advertising places because they were not ready, says Simon Adams, director of the education and recruitment consultancy Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (Tap).
For the trainee, the experience is fairly similar to the “school direct” way of qualifying by learning on the job, but it is likely to become more popular because the word “apprentice” is clearly understood as a paid route into a profession, he adds.
“Many schools are paying the apprenticeship levy, so it makes sense for them to be able to use the fund to train apprentices and grow their own teachers,” he adds.
Hannah Burke, 24, will qualify as a teacher this year after five years as a teaching assistant. “When I left sixth form I was adamant that full-time university was not for me. I knew I wanted to work with children with special needs and I started as a teaching assistant and soon realised I wanted to be a teacher,” says Hannah, who works for Advance Trust at the Vale of Evesham special school.
“I did a part-time university degree in early childhood education but I couldn’t afford to take a year off to get qualified teacher status. Teachingapprenticeships are a brilliant way to qualify while still being employed,” she says.
“Another good thing is the opportunity to work at different types of schools. Working in a special school gives me the experience to be able to deal with children at mainstream schools who may have additional needs,” she says.
“I was nowhere near the top of the scale for teaching assistant pay and now I earn a higher salary as an unqualified teacher, and from September I will be on the newly qualified teacher salary,” she adds.
Apprenticeship roles in teaching
Role: To educate students according to guidelines.
Duration: A year to complete QTS and the apprenticeship end-point assessment.
Qualifications required: Grade 4 in GCSE English and maths, a university degree and professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy.
Money for training: Schools can claim up to £9,000 towards training by an approved provider.
Salary: £21,641 inner London and £20,441 outside of London. But schools can pay up to £31.644, the maximum for inner London, or £27,216 for outside of London.
Level: Teaching assistant
Role: Supporting the class teacher.
Duration: Typically 18 months.
Qualifications required: Typically five grade 9-4 GCSEs.
Money for training: £5,000.
Salary: Typically £13,000-£19,000 full-time.
Level: Higher education lecturer
Role: Higher education professional working in universities, colleges or the private sector.
Duration: 18 months.
Qualifications required: Typically a postgraduate degree-level (level 7) qualification in an area of disciplinary specialism.
Money for training: £9,000.
Salary: Set by employer.