England’s teacher shortage could worsen after the government rejected calls from dozens of established providers to gain official accreditation for their initial teacher training courses.
Only 179 of the 240 existing courses have been accredited by the Department for Education (DfE) to the new standards for initial teacher education from 2024, and the DfE has now rejected all appeals of missed courses, including those from the universities of Durham, Sussex and UWE Bristol.
The decision has seen providers consider legal action against the DfE and sparks a battle to form partnerships with accredited providers or be forced to close courses.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI), a think tank, says about 68 courses have failed to receive accreditation, putting 4,400 training places at risk – including 600 places for trainees in high-demand subjects such as science, math and technology.
The changes are part of an overhaul of teacher education in England, which forced all current providers to apply for accreditation and established a National Institute of Teaching that aims to award degrees.
But the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) said the appeals process was “seriously flawed” and could force suppliers who have been providing excellent teachers to schools for years to pull out.
Emma Hollis, from the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said: “The implication is that we are losing a significant number of high-quality providers. Incredibly, there are many that have been rated as good or excellent by Ofsted.
“We can only hope that the expertise of dedicated, hard-working and experienced employees will not be completely lost to the industry.”
It was revealed last week that the DfE had fallen short of its own teacher recruitment targets this year, with total training numbers down 20% to 29,000, compared to the 36,000 trainees recruited last year. Recruitment for high school subjects was described as “catastrophic”, with only 59% of the government’s target being met.
Rachel Hewitt, the chief executive of the MillionPlus group representing modern universities, called on the DfE to “urgently pause and review this process before the country loses much-needed teacher training providers for good.”
Hewitt said she was concerned that many providers had lost appeal despite strong track records.
“MillionPlus and others within the industry have repeatedly warned that not granting accreditation to established, high-quality university providers … is a serious self-defense for the government,” she said.
EPI figures suggest some regions will be more severely affected, with the North East and North West of England at risk of losing around 1,000 training places, making it more difficult for local schools to recruit newly qualified teachers.
Courses rejected by the DfE include those offered by the University of Cumbria Institute of Education.
prof. Julie Mennell, the university’s vice-chancellor, said she was disappointed by the decision but hoped Cumbria would continue to train teachers until it gained accreditation.
“We are in very positive discussions with a world-class education provider and we look forward to sharing the focus and ambition of this proposed partnership in the days and weeks to come,” said Mennell.
A spokesman for the DfE said education is a top priority for the government, with an additional £2bn for schools for each of the next two years included in the autumn statement.
“Historically, the number of initial teacher education providers has not impacted the number of teachers recruited in our schools and our investment will enable school leaders to continue to invest in quality education and tutoring for those who need it most” said the DfE.