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Now Teach: DfE axes funding for recruitment programme

The Department for Education has axed funding for a recruitment programme aimed at persuading high-flying professionals to change career and retrain as teachers.

Now Teach said its £4.4 million ‘career changer programme’ contract will not be retendered by the DfE for the 2025 recruitment cycle.

A final cohort, with 118 trainees signed up so far, starts in September and will complete their two-year programme as planned before the contract expires in October 2026.

But the cut means the charity will likely have to stop recruiting for “2025 and beyond”.

Founded in 2016 by former Financial Times journalist Lucy Kellaway and former teacher Katie Waldegrave, Now Teach said it has since “supported over 1,000 older people to retrain and become secondary school teachers for STEM shortage subjects in England”.

Now Teach founder calls move ‘utter madness’

Kellaway, now an economics teacher, said: “It’s utter madness to axe a target-busting recruitment programme during a recruitment crisis.

“We have nearly a decade of experience in getting older professionals to become teachers, to junk it for the cost of a departmental rounding error is beyond short-sighted.”

The announcement comes after government scrapped other schools-related schemes as it faces up to a potential £1.5 billion budget black hole to fund teacher pay rises

Government funding for national professional qualifications and teacher top-up courses has been scaled back, while a governance recruitment scheme will be axed in September.

News of yet another scheme being axed sparked criticism from across the sector.

Sam Freedman

Sam Freedman, an ex-DfE policy adviser, said: “We’re in the middle of a major teacher recruitment crisis so it is almost beyond belief that the government would choose this moment to scrap a proven and successful route into teaching that attracts people who would not otherwise enter the profession, and costs less than the Department for Education spend refurbishing their own offices.

“It’s the definition of ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ and I hope ministers see sense and overturn this decision.”

Former education secretary calls Now Teach ‘worthy’ of funding

Lord Blunkett, former education secretary, said the programme is “an inspired idea worthy of government funding”; while Melanie Renowden, CEO of the DfE’s flagship National Institute of Teaching, said “Now Teach has been pivotal in providing a supportive professional network and useful resources for our trainees”.

Contract documents show Now Teach had to recruit 450 trainees across its 2022 and 2023 two-year cohorts. An option to provide one further cohort was triggered last year.

Now Teach does not provide the initial teacher training but it partners with ITT providers and schools who do. Instead, it helps to find training courses and support career changers along the way.

Last year, the government’s secondary recruitment target was missed by 50 per cent and its primary recruitment target was missed by 4 per cent.

Now Teach said it has recruited 107 per cent of its DfE contract total since 2019.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The career changers programme has, and continues to, support career changers to enter teaching. We’d like to acknowledge the contribution being made by Now Teach in delivering this programme. 

“We remain committed to continuing to recruit and support them into initial teacher training, through services such as Get Into Teaching which offers one-to-one support and advice.”

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