Scottish Universities are to target college students to tackle Scotland’s teacher shortage crisis.
The University of Strathclyde’s school of education is taking the lead in proposals to market teacher education degrees to Higher National Diploma (HND) students studying a range of subjects from mechanical engineering to fashion design.
The university wants to recruit them on to the third year of education degrees. After two years at university HND students who have, for example, studied mechanical engineering could become physics teachers, while fashion designers could teach home economics.
This year almost a third (30 per cent) of places on secondary PGDE (post graduate diploma in education) courses went unfilled north of the Border.
The only subjects to reach their target for teachers of the future were history, modern studies, psychology and physical education.
Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) graduates are particularly in demand as schools struggle to fill posts in these subjects.
Professor Ian Rivers of the university’s school of education, said his staff have been mapping the content of HND courses since last November and hopes the new initiative will start next year and says it has the support of other universities.
“They really liked the idea because it means we can work in partnership with the college sector to develop a group of teachers that come from very different backgrounds than perhaps our teachers have traditionally come from.
“There are more colleges than there are universities and some of them are bigger than universities. That’s a market that has never been looked at before– it’s a group of students that has never been considered before.
Professor Rivers, whose school of education trains around 30 per cent of Scottish teachers, added: “We are committed to trying to meet the numbers the Scottish Government want but we can’t do it through the old methods.
“We have to have new and innovative approaches but also make sure we maintain the standards.
“If this works we are talking about significantly larger numbers– I would expect to hit target.”
Shona Struthers, Colleges Scotland chief executive, said the proposed new course could offer a career path not usually considered by HND students.
“Given the focus on Stem courses in colleges, coupled with the acute shortage of teachers in these subjects, this proposal could provide a useful solution,” she said.
“We would be keen to understand further the mechanics of the proposal because Colleges Scotland is supportive of any initiative that helps learners take a career path that is right for them.”
A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, (EIS) the country’s largest teaching union, said it welcomed new approaches to recruiting teachers but said professional teaching standards needed to be maintained.
“The EIS supports the creation of more flexible routes into teaching, where these routes meet the General Teacher Council for Scotland requirements to ensure consistent high standards in teacher education programmes.
“If the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis is to be tackled, it is essential that greater numbers of students can be attracted into initial teacher education programmes.
“It is, of course, also vital long-standing difficulties such as severe workload and declining salaries for teachers are also addressed to make teaching a more attractive career.”
The Scottish Government has implemented a range of measures to deal with the teacher recruitment shortages.
These include creating 11 new routes into teaching, a high-profile advertising campaign and the announcement earlier this month that two additional universities would start offering teacher-education courses from 2019– Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University, also in Edinburgh.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to having a skilled and talented teaching workforce, and this approach has the potential to significantly increase the pool of prospective candidates for teaching qualifications.
“We will support the University of Strathclyde, in partnership with the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, to develop a new route to teaching that allows a student holding HND on to the third year of teacher education degrees in priority secondary subjects.
“It is essential that all our teacher education programmes are of the highest quality, and we are clear that this new route into teaching will receive GTCS accreditation.”