Teacher training bursaries support long-term teacher supply

According to a new NFER report, teacher training bursaries are cost effective at increasing teacher supply.

Increasing bursaries to boost teacher numbers is particularly cost effective where bursaries for a subject are currently low. However, the research also suggests that current high bursaries for shortage subjects, such as physics, are also effective and should be retained.
Findings from the report, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, support previous research showing bursary increases are associated with increases in recruitment into initial teacher training (ITT). The research also finds that teachers who enter the profession due to bursary increases have a sustained impact on long-term supply as they are just as likely to stay in teaching.
The analysis suggests additional spending on bursaries (including the extra indirect costs such as teacher training costs) in shortage subjects would have a positive impact on overall teacher supply. The impact would be similar to a same-cost increase in early career payments and greater than a same-cost increase in teacher pay.
The research shows that currently a starting cohort of 100 teacher trainees will translate, through attrition, into 41 teachers that stay beyond their fifth year in teaching (averaged across subjects/ phases). However, a £5,000 bursary increase, with all else being equal, leads to 47 teachers staying beyond their fifth year in teaching.
Bursaries are also identified as being an effective policy tool for addressing national teacher shortages and the associated staffing challenges in the most affected schools. This is due to additional teachers being more likely to teach in schools that tend to struggle most with filling vacancies, such as schools in London and those serving disadvantaged communities.
The research recommends that the Government should keep training bursaries in place to ensure ITT recruitment is supported to be higher than it otherwise would be. The Government should also continue raising bursaries for subjects experiencing supply challenges and where bursaries are low. Increasing bursaries where there is a small or no existing bursary is more cost effective than when the existing bursary is already at a high level.

The Government should maintain high bursaries for maths, physics, chemistry and computing, raising them over time with the level of the teaching starting salary. However, to further boost teacher supply the Government should redesign the ‘levelling up premium’ early career payments for shortage subjects by widening eligibility for teachers working in all schools nationally and increasing payment generosity to enhance its impact.

Emma Hollis, NASBTT Executive Director, said: “Bursaries for postgraduate ITT have always been a key policy tool used by government to attract more people to enter teacher training, particularly for high-priority subjects that might otherwise struggle to recruit enough teachers. While bursaries tend to attract more people into ITT than otherwise would have entered, they also change the characteristics of those who apply. In some cases, these composition changes from bursary increases promote greater equality (e.g. increasing the proportion of men) while in others it appears to reduce it further (e.g. reducing the proportion of BAME trainees).

"Labour have already said they propose to review bursaries to ensure the £181 million a year the government spends on incentivising people into teaching is being best used to attract and critically to retrain teaching staff. A bigger game changer – although this needs to be modelled – would be student loan forgiveness for new teachers working in state schools up to a certain amount of years.”

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