On 13th October, the government announced it was making huge reductions to teacher training bursaries in England from 2021.
Whilst some bursaries have been reduced by as much as 73 per cent, others have been cut completely.
This comes as a result of a significant rise in the number of people aspiring to become teachers due to the pandemic.
The bursaries were introduced as a form of financial incentive to encourage people to consider teacher training.
Many student teachers rely on the financial support as the demanding nature of the course makes it challenging to balance with a part-time job.
Students applying for teaching training courses for the next academic year have called the cuts ‘drastic’ and ‘unfair’ with complaints that the unanticipated announcement will have a large impact on their plans to pursue their chosen career.
“It really caught me off guard”
Unsaid spoke to aspiring history teacher Hannah who is currently on a gap year after completing her undergraduate degree.
The government has cut all teaching bursaries for 2021 onwards in arts, humanities and English.
Hannah explained that she was expecting to receive the 10k bursary which previous student History teachers had received and was shocked to find this week that the government has completely scrapped the bursary for History teacher training.
Hannah now worries that she might struggle to afford the teacher training course without the financial help she expected to be receiving:
“It really caught me off guard to be honest – I’m seriously doubting if I can do teacher training next year like I planned. I was set to get 9k as a bursary to be a history teacher but now I’m not sure what to do – I honestly didn’t expect the cuts.
“I definitely think that it was unfair, I took a gap year to learn how to drive and get some money together to help with teacher training.
“If I knew that this was happening, I would have gone straight into teacher training this year. It’s completely ruined the plans I made 5 years ago – some warning would have been appreciated considering it’s affected my entire future.”
Hannah also added that she was notified about the unexpected cuts by text alert:
“I found out by text saying that the bursaries had been announced and a link to the website. I’m signed up to the ‘get into teaching’ scheme so it gave me a mentor and text alerts for updates.”
“Drastic” reductions to teacher training bursaries
Chloë, a current Classics undergraduate hoping to gain a place on a Classics PGCE course at a leading university, told Unsaid that she found out about the unexpected government cuts from another student’s tweet on the day applications opened.
If Chloë had started her teacher training in Classics this academic year, she would have received £26,000.
The government has now reduced teacher training bursaries for languages and classics to £10,000. She explained that she will now have to rely on student loans and financial support from her family:
“I found out through a tweet from another student on Tuesday (the day applications opened).
“I’m still applying, but I’m going to have to apply for loans and ask family for money to support me. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones to be able to do that though!
“I have considered taking a year out and seeing if it goes up (this is what Get Into Teaching recommend I do…) but it may well go down further, and I don’t want to take the risk!”
Chloë added that the lack of warning about the bursary cuts may put some applicants in a difficult financial position:
“The reductions have been SO drastic, not giving anyone any time to consider how they might pay for their studies before opening applications.”
Cuts to teacher training bursaries – ‘A short-term measure’
Whilst teacher bursaries in arts, humanities, English, languages and Classics have been cut significantly or scrapped completely, the bursaries for chemistry, computing, maths and physics have been reduced only marginally from £26,000 to £24,000.
The government claims that the cuts are due to the fact that there is large interest in teaching training as a result of the pandemic and financial incentives are not as necessary as they previously were for some subjects.
However, the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) has strongly criticised the move, claiming the cuts to be ‘a short-term measure’ which may have long lasting effects:
“Student teachers are a hugely beneficial resource for schools at the moment and they all need financial support that will allow them to complete their programmes.
“Although applications to ITE (initial teacher education) have increased because of the pandemic, the effect could be short-lived
and underlying problems are likely to remain.
“Removing bursaries is a short-term measure that could have long-term implications.”
The Department for Education (DfE) has also completely cut the early-career payments in chemistry, languages, maths and physics.
These were financial incentives to encourage teacher retention in the form of bonuses between £2,000 and £3,000 which was given to teachers of the subjects in their second, third and fourth years of teaching.
“I’m lucky to be receiving the 26k bursary for Maths teaching this year,” said current PGCE student Victoria, “but it’s unfortunate that I will not be receiving the additional payments.
“I think the bonuses are so important as we need to keep people in teaching. I read somewhere that teacher retention rates are pretty bad at the moment – these new rules seem to overlook that”.
The School Workforce in England census (Published 4th September 2020) from the Department of Education showed that of those who qualified in 2014, only 67.4% were still in teaching five years later.
It is evident that the unexpected cuts will continue to cause additional stress for those applying for teacher training for the academic year. Whether or not it is a ‘short-term’ solution with long-lasting effects for teacher recruitment – only time will tell.