Science PGCE students in a seminar

University of Exeter experts have developed an innovative approach to training teachers in rural and remote parts of the South West to tackle the shortage of school staff.

The cost of living and shortages of available housing have exacerbated teacher recruitment problems in the region.

Previously the University of Exeter’s highly-regarded PGCE courses were delivered in the city, with trainees completing two school placements around the South West.

From this September, those training to teach primary-aged children will have taught delivery in “Hubs” in Exeter, North Devon and Somerset. This will allow trainees more choice about where to attend training, therefore reducing their travel and housing costs.

PGCE courses for those training to be secondary school teachers will be delivered in Exeter, but trainees will only have to be on campus two days a week during the autumn term. The rest of the time they can be based in one of four regions – West Devon & Cornwall, Mid & North Devon, Dorset & Somerset and Exeter, East and South Devon – for independent study, online lectures and their school placements.

It is hoped the changes will make it more accessible to train to be a teacher in rural or more remote locations and help schools fill teacher shortages.

The training is still delivered by the University of Exeter’s world-leading experts in conjunction with teachers. Courses have a particular focus in helping new teachers to understand social justice and social mobility.

Dr Thomas Ralph, Head of Initial Teacher Education, said: “We know the cost of living and the geography of the South West makes it hard for schools to recruit teachers and we have worked alongside them for many years to help to resolve this issue. Recent Government changes to the way PGCE courses are delivered gave us the opportunity to remodel our programmes and we focused on designing courses that would support schools to recruit high quality teachers by delivering our training more locally. We hope this will remove barriers to accessing teacher training.

“Students get the benefit of our excellent research inspired training in the way that they always have but accessible from different areas of the South West. We hope this will help them to reduce their costs and travel, and that it will encourage people to train in the South West and start their teaching career here”.

Corinne Greaves, Partnership Director, said: “We have listened very closely to the needs of schools and the challenges they face recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, the regional approach has been developed with our Partnership schools. This new approach alleviates the concerns students may have about the location of their school placements as they know the area of their placements when applying”.

There will be three Hubs where people can study for a Primary PGCE – at Fiveways School in Yeovil, at High Bickington Community Centre in North Devon and at the University of Exeter’s St Luke’s Campus.

The Hubs have been developed with school Lead Partners in the Hub area. Dan Polak, Director of Education for TEAM Multi-Academy Trust, the Lead Partner based in North Devon, said: “The talent the profession needs is in North Devon. We know we can develop exceptional teachers through this partnership who want to train and take up their posts in North Devon and they should get the outstanding offer from the University of Exeter while being able to train close to home. Local schools value the high quality University of Exeter training and tell us they are reassured when they see this on an application.”

ITE staff at the University of Exeter’s School of Education include experts in mathematical thinking and understanding; visual arts education; creative, digital and material approaches to teaching science; literacy teaching with a focus on talk, writing and poetry pedagogy; religious education and intercultural communication; the teaching and learning of pupils who are resistant to school; outdoor learning; use of technology in schools; dialogic education; and teacher professional development.

Ofsted inspectors have said trainee teachers “thrive” at the University of Exeter and receive “exceptional” preparation for their careers in schools. They have praised the “long-standing tradition of academic rigour and educational research” at Exeter which enables trainees to deepen their subject knowledge. Those involved in running the University of Exeter’s teacher education programmes were commended for their work to response to the needs of local schools and to addressing regional teacher recruitment challenges.