Expert comment

Teacher apprenticeships: a well thought out policy or a desperate measure to address a national crisis?


Teacher apprenticeships: a well thought out policy or a desperate measure to address a national crisis?

Kerry Jordan-Daus from the Faculty of Education asks if apprenticeships can help with recruiting and training new teachers.


Last weekend a lot of (twitter) folk got rather heated over the Secretary of State’s announcement of an apprenticeship route to Qualified Teacher Status. This was reported as a non-Degree pathway. Although short on detail, what has been reported, ie the £3.50 an hour pay rate, has got some very cross.

We know we have a teacher recruitment crisis, but is this the solution?  Maybe, but maybe not. There are a plethora of ways to train to be a teacher, this includes an apprenticeship by another name?

Many primary unqualified teachers are currently studying part time on day release University Foundation Degree Programmes and will then progress onto top up courses and QTS routes. Many PCET and FE college teachers and lecturers, without a degree, but a long list of vocational qualifications, are studying whilst working, again day release (or an evening class) to achieve a recognised teaching qualification.

Is it the prospect of a teaching profession without a degree which alarms so many colleagues? Is it the belief that dilution of quality learning (as is perceived by promoting an apprenticeship route) that is causing such alarm? Is it the fear that apprentices will not get the high quality education, mentoring and work based learning that sends the alarm bells ringing. I think it is all of this!

The trouble with this announcement was that it was so short on detail, it was bound to set off so many alarms. In the absence of knowing, people feared the worse.

Our history of high quality work-based learning does not give me hope that the apprenticeship route to teaching will embed rigour and robust education for the next generation of teachers. But this is the call to arms, let’s make it work. For many, for many different reasons, an apprenticeship route, could enable those who want to train to be a teacher to realise their dreams.

Let’s build outstanding partnerships to make this happen – it can be done. But also lets not be naive, work based learning depends on the integrity of employers to invest in the highest quality training. Fortunately (or unfortunately) schools are rather busy teaching children, investing in high quality initial teacher education which goes beyond copying, is a very big ask of a mentor, who is also a class teacher, who has examination classes and a form group etc.

We know from serving teachers that professional development is a bit hit and miss. Can we afford for our next generation of teachers to have anything less than a good initial teacher education? What this looks like, is a matter of huge debate, but I think we are all agreed, its more than “copying” an expert teacher – it requires a deep engagement with a wide curriculum, including subject knowledge per se and pedagogical knowledge.

To learn, you need time and space. My experience of work based learning is that time and space are in short supply. My experience of building outstanding work based learning is that it requires champions who believe and will be relentless in their drive for the highest quality learning. Our schools needs this, our future teachers need this, our future children and young people need this.

I won’t dismiss apprenticeships per se. I will, however, not hide from shouting out for quality and I will be relentless in building the very best apprenticeship routes possible. Oh, and that won’t be cheap!


Kerry Jordan-Daus is Head of Partnerships in the Faculty of Education and has a strategic responsibility for the development of apprenticeship routes.



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