This story by Sally Weale in The Guardian on 10th January 2019.

Analysis by party finds £22m was spent on bursaries for trainees who did not go on to take up teaching posts.

Labour has accused the government of squandering taxpayers’ money on bursaries of up to £25,000 and beyond to attract top graduates into teaching, many of whom then fail to take up teaching posts.

According to Labour analysis of Department for Education (DfE) data, trainee teachers awarded the highest bursary of £25,000 and above were the least likely to end up in a teaching post, compared with those on smaller bursaries or no financial incentive at all.

Eighty per cent of postgraduate teacher trainees awarded the £25,000-plus bursary were teaching in state-funded schools in 2015-16 after qualification, compared with 89% of those who received no bursary. Of those awarded the lowest-value bursaries of less than £5,000, 90% were in a teaching post.

Bursaries are intended to attract high-quality graduates into teaching, particularly in priority subjects where it is often hard to recruit, but according to Labour they are failing to keep top teachers in the profession and are therefore a waste of public money.

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said: “The government’s strategy to deal with the teacher recruitment and retention crisis they have created is failing badly, and it is taxpayers who are paying the price for the failures of Tory ministers.

“They have missed recruitment targets in six consecutive years and their inability to attract high-achieving graduates to the profession is wasting taxpayers’ money and letting students down.”

The bursaries offered by the DfE depend on qualifications and subject, and are among a number of measures being used by the government to address the teacher recruitment crisis in the UK and increase the quality of teachers.

According to Labour analysis, in 2015-16 nearly £22m was spent on bursaries for trainees who did not go on to take up a teaching post.

More than £6.1m of that went on top £25,000-plus payments for graduates with firsts in chemistry, computing, mathematics, modern foreign languages and physics.

The analysis comes as the education secretary, Damian Hinds, prepares to launch the government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy.

Official statistics published in November revealed the government had missed its teacher training targets in most secondary school subjects.

Fewer than half (47%) of the trainees required were recruited in physics and just a quarter of the required design and technology trainees were taken on, according to the figures.

The DfE roundly rejected Labour’s criticisms of the bursaries policy. According to officials, though the employment rate for bursary-holders who qualify as teachers is lower than the equivalent rate for non-bursary-holders, it is down to the quality of the graduates who attract bursaries who are in greater demand elsewhere in the economy, rather than the award of a bursary itself.

The schools standards minister, Nick Gibb, said: “Our bursaries and scholarships are not just an exercise in increasing teacher numbers.

“They are specifically tailored so that we attract the right candidates for certain vital subjects and developed with bodies such as the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“This is especially important in a competitive graduate labour market with unemployment at its lowest level since the 1970s.

“In addition to these bursaries, we are working with school leaders and unions on a strategy to drive recruitment, boost retention and strip away unnecessary workload, to ensure that teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession.”

The DfE is testing new financial incentives for mathematics teachers – who are in particularly short supply – including upfront bursaries of £20,000 and a maths scholarship worth £22,000. These are followed by two additional payments of up to £7,500 to encourage talented maths teachers to stay in the profession.

Jack Worth, the school workforce lead at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said: “There has been a long-term need to attract teachers into subjects such as maths and science which offer the highest bursaries.

“However, they are mostly aimed at increasing recruitment into training and, in order to be effective and offer good value for money, bursaries need to be coupled with a robust retention strategy.”

Rayner promised teachers more money under Labour. “Years of real-terms pay cuts have made it impossible for schools to recruit the staff they need, and teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers,” she said.

“There is a generation of children paying the price for Tory failure in our schools.

“Through our National Education Service, Labour will invest in our schools and provide ringfenced funding to give teachers the pay rise they deserve.”

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