Family & Education

Cuts to teacher training show ‘short-term’ thinking

Despite reductions in government subsidy, we must continue to support the teachers of the future


We need to prioritise teachers, now more than ever

Last month saw a significant, but only quietly announced, swathe of changes introduced by the government, making considerable cuts to funding for initial teacher training for 2021-22 across the country.

Its impact reaches across primary and secondary provision, to varying degrees. Its messaging is clear: in the chaos of the current financial climate, funding for teacher training is another victim.

At LSJS we specialise in training and developing teachers for the Jewish community and its schools and are rated as an outstanding provider by Ofsted. We have come to partly rely on government funding but will be able to do so no longer.

We do not take teachers’ value for granted. Indeed, they have worked harder than ever in the last few difficult months. And, while no one minimises the central and crucial role of our NHS workers, teachers are also key workers who must be looked after. We must redouble our efforts to provide the best quality training and ensure our teachers have the skills they need to face today’s challenges and educational landscape.

The cuts affect the employment-based training route known as School Direct, whereby teachers are employed from day one, based primarily in the classroom. The government pays significantly towards the trainee’s salary by way of either a grant or a bursary, which range from £9,000 to £26.000.

This funding has been cut at primary school level and for certain subjects at secondary school level, including religious education (which for LSJS is delivered as Jewish studies). The cuts to religious education trainee teachers’ salaries are a particular blow as this is such a critical area to enable us to engage the next generation and preserve their Jewish lives and identities.

We are working with colleagues in a number of other faith groups, all similarly affected, and combining our thinking as to how to address these challenges.

The government’s rationale, aside from saving money, is that, according to national statistics, they no longer see shortages. They also expect an upsurge in applicants as recession-hit career changers choose to retrain as teachers. They have kept full funding for shortage subjects— maths and science in particular.

However, this is a short-term strategy, which belies the local picture and certainly takes no account of our community’s need to attract the best and brightest role models into Jewish education and the general shortage of Jewish studies teachers, particularly in the primary sector.

We are fortunate at LSJS that we run a number of different routes into teaching across the majority of subject areas and we work with school partners across the Jewish spectrum. We will be as flexible as possible with our offering in line with the changing reality and will continue to assess the best training programme for each and every trainee, led by our supportive, expert team.

Whatever happens, we will ensure that we continue to run programmes to train primary and secondary teachers across the range of subjects, including Jewish studies and Ivrit. Unlike many other providers, we are thankful that our training remains viable and we will continue to recruit high quality graduates.

Indeed, it may well be an opportune time for the teaching profession to benefit from great people who have refocused their ambitions.

Teaching is in our DNA as a Jewish people. If you want to change the world, schools are an excellent place to do it. As Rabbi Sacks says in answer to the question, why I am a Jew?, “It is not what we are but what we are called on to be… Jews though they lacked all else, never ceased to value education as a sacred task, endowing the individual with dignity and depth.”

For those who have a calling to be teachers, we will support you.

Joanne Greenaway is chief executive of the London School of Jewish Studies

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