The True Cost of Training One Teacher

The publication of the Education Select Committee’s report into attracting, training and retaining the best teachers reveals the shocking true costs involved in training our teachers on various pathways of initial teacher education. Having waited for months since Teach First gave evidence and refused to reveal their costs in their verbal submission, a comparative table of costs has been published.

You have to get to page 216 of the second volume of their report to find the scandolous truth about the massive expense of the Teach First route compared to other providers. According to the table itself, Teach First is the most expensive pathway (when compared to a PGCE pathway) by some £7k. But, check out the footnotes. In addition to £23,277 per trainee, Teach First receive an additional £8,000 per participant to fund the costs associated with their Leadership Development programme (of which £4,166 is not included in the figures). So, the total cost per trainee of the Teach First programme is £27,443 compared to £16,470. That’s a whopping £10,973 more than a conventional PGCE pathway. And, apparently, they still have to raise income from charitable sources to cover their costs! I’d love to see their business model in more detail. It beggars belief.

For the record, these figures are a like for like comparison for training a specialist physics teacher in inner London.

In their defence later in the report, Teach First claim that schools actually save money by having one of their trainees because they are actually ‘filling a teaching vacancy in their first year’ (i.e. or, in other words, the schools adoption of their trainee means they don’t have to recruit another fully qualified teacher). They acutally cost this out on Ev211 (p.217).

This is plainly ridiculous on so many levels. Firstly, and it needs saying, a first year Teach First trainee is clearly not as well qualified to teach a full teaching timetable as a newly qualified or experienced teacher; secondly, the perceived ‘savings’ for schools in this respect have not been mapped or considered in other pathways.

For a PGCE student, for instance, throughout their 120 days in school they might teach, on average over the year, a 50% timetable. So, should we consider reducing the overall cost of training a PGCE student by the 60 days worth of teaching they do (approximately 1/3 of a full time teacher’s teaching commitment of c.180 days)? Going by Teach First’s own figures (£27,000 salary/3 = £9000: see Ev211 note 2 in table above), this would reduce to the taxpayer  and schools he overall cost of training a PGCE student to around £7k, i.e. at least £20k less than the Teach First route/trainee.

In other words, a like for like comparison of the overall cost to the taxpayer means that you could train around 3 teachers through a PGCE programme for every one teacher that Teach First train. Except, of course, it is plainly a ridiculous line of argument that only Teach First seem to think is suitable to justify their exorbitant fees.

I am staggered that at this time of financial austerity, the Government believes it is right to promote the work of a private charity and fund it so generously. I have no doubt that Teach First produce good teachers. But so do our university programmes. Even if you disagree with me about the potential ‘savings’ a school could make by adopting a PGCE within their staff, there is no way that the additional £11k spent on training a teacher through the Teach First programme is money well spent when universities can produce teachers equally as good and just as effective for a lot less.

It is also worth noting that the costs involved in training teachers in subjects without bursary payments (e.g. Music) will be even more extreme. Take the £9k training bursary out of the original table and a music student on a Teach First programme will still cost £27,443; the music student on a PGCE programme will cost the taxpayer £7,470. Outrageous.

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