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Bursaries for teaching FE maths: a misplaced incentive?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) recently announced that they will be offering a £7500 bonus for graduates who teach maths at a further education college.

The £20m injection is in response to the dire need of maths teacher in further education. Joy Mercer of the AoC said there is a shortfall of 2000 maths and English teachers right now.

Whilst the Government may have the best of intentions, will it really have impact, can it be implemented or is this just another initiative to fill a deep, dark hole. After all, maths in further education needs to be very applied to the course that a learner is pursuing. Just because a graduate is a good mathematician doesn’t guarantee they will be good at teaching secondary or GCSE maths in a contextualised situation.

We all know the emphasis that’s been put on maths in every facet of education. Every student needs to have a good grasp of it, and it’s vital that they learn it in a way that will serve them the rest of their career.

Instead of trying to lure new teachers into the sector, why aren’t we using the talent that already exists? The other bonus to this is improving adults’ maths and English skills, which has to be a good thing!

The focus should be on up skilling the current workforce by training them to teach maths for their given subjects. Centres need support in developing strategies to train their staff, giving non-specialist maths and English tutors the skills and confidence to deliver consistent and high-quality teaching and learning.

Another huge flaw in this plan is the concept of a cash incentive. The truth is, money won’t attract great teachers, and I fear the ones it does attract won’t have the passion and resilience they need to excel in FE — and perhaps won’t stay when the cash dries up.

Someone who is already in the sector and has the knowledge and experience in their subject area will be far more likely to stick around. Therefore, it makes sense that the Government should put the money towards supporting centres to raise standards and attainment in maths as well as English.

That’s the whole logic behind City & Guilds’ Maths and English offer.

Our learning support resources are designed to offer maximum support to those delivering or undertaking a maths or English qualification or other learning programme. If centres aren’t supported, the teacher shortage can only get worse, and it can only negatively affect learners.

As we all know, the sector is becoming more and more squeezed financially. It was disheartening to see the Skills Funding Agency’s announcement about cutting the FE budget by 19 per cent for 2016. It seems that more than ever, colleges and training providers are expected do more with less, and they do a phenomenal job with the resources they have. They just can’t be expected to continue to do it alone.

If the Government is serious about tackling this shortfall of maths and English teachers, and if they want a lasting infrastructure that will produce years of quality teaching, they needn’t look further than those who have already committed to FE. Let’s rather invest these new resources and offer of funding into them.

Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of City & Guilds Group, the awarding body

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