Making the most of the teacher apprenticeship levy

Music teaching apprentice Gemma Longhurst from Carshalton Boys Sports College discusses the benefits of the apprenticeship programme and how school business managers can maximise opportunities offered by the apprenticeship levy.

The apprenticeship levy is a UK tax on employers used to fund apprenticeship training applicable to all employers with a payroll exceeding £3 million.
Employers that pay into the apprenticeship and create an apprenticeship service account will be able to use up to £9,000 of funding from this account to cover the cost of training and assessing the apprentice.

Accessing the apprenticeship levy is a budget-friendly opportunity for schools to ‘grow their own’ teachers and school staff in the midst of a severe recruitment and retention crisis: just 84.7% of those teachers who qualified in 2017 were still working in the sector after twelve months. 

Using the levy to fund apprenticeships is also an invaluable solution to the high costs associated with teacher recruitment, with the average cost of recruiting a teacher £3,000, and some agency ‘finder’s fees’ costing as much as £10,000.

With these persistent education workforce recruitment and retention issues, it is vital that new routes into teaching are explored and funding is fully utilised.

Robyn Johnstone, CEO of teacher recruitment and retention specialist Education Placement Group, strongly believes more schools should consider signing up for teaching apprenticeship programmes. She says that “when schools have to count every penny, growing teachers organically through a funded programme makes a lot of sense. Growing your own teachers is a step change for Headteachers nationwide who are looking to fulfil their staffing requirements in a climate where numbers of NQTs are falling and qualified teachers are leaving the profession.”

My experience

From a young age I wanted to be a music teacher - I know firsthand the transformative role a good teacher can play! I come from a single parent family with a fairly low income – affording music lessons would have been difficult. My teachers offered me subsidised flute, singing and piano tuition; without this support I couldn’t have pursued a career in teaching music.  

Upon completing my degree, my route into teaching was less straightforward. Before beginning a PGCE I was working as an SEN support assistant when I heard about an opportunity to train as an apprentice with teacher training provider e-Qualitas at a school I knew and liked.

The Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) is a fee-free, salaried route for graduates to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by the end of the year – this is required to teach in UK government maintained schools.

A work-based route was appealing because I wanted my training to match the everyday reality of teaching - as a teaching apprentice you are responsible for your own classes and integrate yourself into one school rather than complete a number of different placements.

The programme provides trainees with a School Based Trainer (SBT) and an e-Qualitas tutor who are both incredibly supportive, and e-Qualitas also runs training days and modules to support your development, which are useful and an opportunity to share experiences with other trainees.

Balancing work with training means the workload is full on, but you are well supported and with good organisation, it is manageable. Taking responsibility for my own classes can be a lot of pressure, but it allows me to try out different teaching methods, helping to build a sense of the kind of teacher I want to become.

Having a say over where you work is incredibly empowering and has allowed me to develop my own personal teaching philosophy. It can be difficult to be placed somewhere which you know isn’t the right fit. With the apprenticeship programme, you are employed by the school, allowing you to choose a school where you’ll enjoy training!

It’s a great option for people who are already working in a school setting and would like to receive QTS - they can qualify without needing to leave a school or give up a salary for a year.

The benefits of teaching apprentices for schools are equally notable. School senior leadership teams are afforded a lot of autonomy as they select the apprentice themselves, as opposed to other processes where the organisation places a trainee without input from the school. Therefore, schools can employ a trainee who they feel will be an asset to the institution. Hosting a trainee teacher enables schools to inform the apprentice of their school’s vision, helping senior leadership teams find and shape future full-time staff who will have the same priorities and focus as the school.

The financial advantage is significant too as apprentices are by nature cheaper than other employees. Schools can apply for grant funding to subsidise their salary (grants vary dependent upon subject and phase) but importantly the training is also paid for by the apprenticeship levy.

Teaching apprenticeships are a budget-friendly way to improve staff retention: the supportive nature of the course definitely encourages teachers to stick at it longer! It’s a tough job, but the level of care received means I feel free to experiment with new methods and make mistakes, which has led to a really enjoyable experience.

I feel lucky to be at a school I love: I am challenged and supported in equal measures and I know it’s where I would like to teach for the foreseeable future.

The Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) in details
•    Graduates are employed by the school for a minimum of 12 months during their Initial Teacher Training (ITT)
    •    After nine months, they achieve Qualified Teacher Status and complete End-Point Assessment to pass the apprenticeship
    •    Graduates have the option to integrate the PGCE with TAP
    •    Apprenticeship Training is delivered by a Department for Education approved ITT trainer
    •    Trainee teachers are paid in line with the unqualified teacher salary scale starting at £21,641 in Inner London and £17,208 across the rest of the country.