Targeted bursaries could help to attract and retain teachers in geographically isolated and deprived parts of the UK – areas where recruitment and retention difficulties are most challenging, experts have said.
Numbers of new entrants to teacher training are falling around the country. Researchers from the University of Exeter have warned of acute shortages in applications in the South West.
In their evidence submitted to MPs on the House of Commons Education Select Committee they recommend the Department for Education consider targeted bursaries for trainee or early career teachers working in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage and/or geographical isolation. They also call for additional resource to enable high quality mentoring of new teachers, particularly for small or isolated schools.
Giving evidence to the Select Committee Associate Professor Annabel Watson told MPs the region faces “significant difficulties” recruiting and retaining teachers because of the geographical isolation of many schools, unreliable and expensive public transport, and cost and availability of affordable accommodation.
This has a negative impact on disadvantaged pupils in particular as schools serving areas of socioeconomic deprivation are more likely to struggle to recruit suitably qualified teachers.
Professor Watson said: “Teachers are essential for providing high quality education and ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all. Shortages of specialist teachers can have a significant impact on the curriculum offered in schools. For example, shortages of science teachers are cited as a factor in school leaders’ decision not to offer triple science, widely recognised as the main route into STEM careers.
“Transport and accommodation pressures are particularly acute in the South West, with many rural schools poorly served by public transport and the cost of temporary accommodation driven up by tourism. In addition, many of the small, rural schools we work with have limited capacity to support new teachers into the profession and have expressed concern about the increased mentoring required under the new Early Career Framework.”
Academics also suggested the Department for Education should consider piloting a two-year PGCE for graduates without a relevant undergraduate degree to train as physics and mathematics teachers. This would allow for sufficient time to learn the subject knowledge content required to teach to A-level in addition to learning to teach.