School Direct forced to fast-track teaching applications, NASBTT warns

Martin Thompson, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) has warned school-based teacher training providers are being forced to fast-track applications, as a result of changes to the way places are filled.

Thompson claimed that shortlisting candidates for places was now ‘a thing of the past’ as recruiters such as School Direct competed against each other for students.

Smaller school-based providers were also ‘vulnerable’ to closure because of the new system, which meant providers no longer had a fixed allocation of places. Furthermore, Thompson warned high-quality candidates who applied later in the year could end up being turned away.

Thompson’s comments arrive just weeks after universities complained of the same problem with the new system. The regulations mean providers can recruit as many students as they want to do PGCE courses starting in September 2016, within an overall national limit.

Even though half of places in primary and in each secondary subject have been reserved for school-based routes, the providers are still competing against each other.

Previous rules meant providers were given an allocation of places they could fill up at their own rate throughout the year.

Thompson said: “The sort of problems the universities have experienced, with everybody in competition, are going to be exactly the same for the school-based sector as it comes towards the national limit.”

He said: “Both sides are going to be suffering similarly from this curtailed free-for-all, it may be that 50 per cent of places go to school-led routes but as they begin to fill we will see the similar pattern in things as we have in universities.

“In the past people have looked at applications in groups of 20 or so. Now they are having to look at groups of three. They don’t have the opportunity to look at a wider field. Shortlisting is a thing of the past.

“We are worried that it will damage the brand of School Direct in that the universities could be perceived as having the pick of the applicants.”

However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the Commons Education Select Committee last week that the changes to the initial teacher training system had been ‘successful’ and resulted in higher numbers and speedier applications.

A Department for Education spokesperson also contended the new system gave providers ‘much greater flexibility to recruit the best trainees, while reducing bureaucracy’.

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