Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

The idea of an apprenticeship route into teaching is back on the table after three years, and should be welcomed during this #backtoschool season.

It could make the profession more accessible to a wider range of people, and result in better, more diverse careers guidance for pupils.

In late September, education minister Gavin Williamson said he was in favour of a teaching apprenticeship for non-graduates - rekindling attempts to develop an undergraduate degree apprenticeship route, which surfaced in 2016 but have since stalled.

An apprenticeship route into teaching could not only be important in terms of opening up the career path to those who are unable to – or cannot – attend university, but would be positive for pupils’ career guidance. Having teachers and role models who have taken a different career path to the standard “A-levels and university” route could be inspiring to young people.

At the moment schools are obliged to give equal credence to all post-16 and 18 options, but how can we expect apprenticeships to be afforded the same status as university when almost all school staff have attended the former, and almost none experienced the latter? Teachers who have attained their qualifications and positions via an apprenticeship could be real-life examples

We all know that university is becoming increasingly expensive, but there are other reasons many aspiring teachers might prefer to take another path to the career.

British universities are experiencing a surge in student anxiety, breakdowns and depression - according to a report, “inside the student mental health crisis” - and there has been a sharp rise in students dropping out. Of the 2015 intake, 26,000 left in their first year, for example.

Giving aspiring teachers another option aside from university could be advantageous for those who want to avoid the stress of the academic life and would cope better training in a different way.

Experts point (rightly) to the issue of cost as being a major barrier when it comes to seeing teaching apprenticeships to fruition. The £9,000-a-year training costs, with the annual salary of about £27,000 for an unqualified teacher, means schools could end up paying well over £100,000 to train a new member of staff.

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Furthermore, the government has insisted that a trainee who’s paid less than an unqualified teacher cannot be left in an unsupervised position.

However, as it stands schools have paid millions into the apprenticeship levy since it launched in April 2017, but have struggled to find ways to spend any money at all from the training fund because there are not enough education-specific routes. Wouldn’t it make more sense to develop ways for them to draw down on what they’ve paid into the apprentice pot?

Critics of the idea also claim it threatens the “graduate-only status” of the profession, but surely it’s the nuts and bolts of teaching - that could be learnt on an apprenticeship - that have an impact on how a teacher does their job, and the experience of their students, not that they were capable of earning an undergraduate degree before they embarked on their teacher training?

Apprentice teaching assistant Kate Rowbotham hit the nail on the head in an interview earlier this year, demonstrating how having an undergraduate degree seems quite separate from the ability to be a effective in the classroom. “Some people ask why I am doing an apprenticeship when I already have a degree,” Kate said.

“Actually, this is completely different because it is linked to the career I have chosen. I want to go to work and do a really good job and this is giving me the skills and knowledge to be able to do that. It’s not about the status, it’s about training on the job and getting better at it, for the benefit of the children.”

Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

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