East Kent College Group: Taking Teaching Further

In 2018, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) launched the Taking Teaching Further programme to support colleges and other providers in the Further Education and Training sector to recruit industry professionals into technical teaching roles. The programme, which is funded by the Department for Education (DfE), has proved very successful with over 700 industry professionals moving into teaching as a result.

EKC Group joined Taking Teaching Further at the outset in 2018 and has continued to work with the programme ever since, training 12 industry professionals so far with plans to train another six. Of these, 10 have stayed at EKC Group and some have progressed to become Learning Coaches. Simon Bigrigg, Head of the Teacher Academy, manages initial teacher education across the Group and shares with us here the secrets of recruiting and retaining business and industry professionals on the programme.

Why did you decide to get involved with Taking Teaching Further (TTF)?

There’s a gap in terms of recruitment for certain hard-to-fill vacancies which need industry skills and experience, especially for the technical routes. At the time, we were looking around for projects we could get involved in and Taking Teaching Further came along. It was a perfect fit, so we grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Which curriculum areas have you recruited to?

Predominantly the trades, Construction and Engineering, but also some for Accounting and Business Administration, and for Art and Design. We’d also like to branch out into Healthcare and Early Years going forward. Something we’re looking at this year is the added flexibility for our own professional support staff to transition from business support to academic roles, providing they meet all the eligibility criteria. Personally, I’m over the moon that this year TTF is also supporting business and industry professionals to teach learners with SEND, as well as core skills of maths and English. Maths tutors can be hard to find, especially those from industry that can relate maths to the world of work.

What are the challenges of recruitment for Taking Teaching Further?

Essentially the challenge is matching people with the roles we have available in the organisation that are suitable for Taking Teaching Further – not all vacancies are – and then finding the right people for those vacancies.

How do find the right people from business and industry?

It’s tricky but it’s doable. When we first joined the Taking Teaching Further programme we went very ‘old school’ in terms of producing a marketing campaign and advertising open days. Potential recruits came in and met with myself and members of the teaching and HR teams. During the pandemic we couldn’t run these events, so instead we developed a really good way of communicating across the whole organisation to match people who had registered interest in teaching with the EKC Group with suitable TTF opportunities. We got in contact with those individuals directly to discuss their situation, build a relationship and incentivise them to proceed with the offer of the TTF package of enhanced support.

What sort of questions do candidates ask the most?

Professionals from business and industry often have a view of what teaching is and are concerned about whether they are academic enough and whether they will work well with students. We focus on demystifying the job and reassuring them that extra support is available to make the transition much easier. Taking Teaching Further has been really useful to help people with anxieties about making the change – because it is a massive thing to transition from being, say, a professional graphic designer, to being a teacher. We say that the Taking Teaching Further programme will help you become a great educator but will also value what you’re bringing.

Do trainees value the teaching qualifications?

Yes, they do. People really welcome the fact that the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training is part of the training, but there is also apprehensiveness for some about whether they are up to Level 5 – particularly those who come from the trades and may not have been in a classroom for years. With the TTF programme we can reassure people that not only will their qualification be funded but they will also get extra support and time off timetable to study for their qualification within working hours. That remission time is invaluable. The majority of our non-TTF teacher training students do not get formal remission time, as they have to study in addition to their weekly working hours as per the norm across the sector.

How do you retain individuals once you have recruited them?

Staff turnover rates are typically high in Further Education, but we have retained 10 out of the 12 professionals we’ve trained on the Taking Teaching Further programme. Communication is at the heart of our retention strategy, making sure that we are communicating clearly and regularly, not just with the trainees but with their line managers and senior leadership. The key is making sure that all the remission and extra support that we advertise as part of TTF becomes a reality. It is a challenge because it means that the departments need to find cover for the trainees to have those agreed hours off timetable. We keep a very close eye on the remission time against target – how many hours have been taken, whether they’re sporadic or regular – so we can intervene and support if necessary.

The second thing is that we maintain a very good discipline of progress reviews. So rather than just a yearly check-up or get together, there are regular progress reviews every 10 weeks or less, just like on our apprenticeships programme. It starts with an email, then a Teams chat, and potentially some observation in the classroom. We want trainees to feel supported and that their practice is being reinforced.

Have you seen the impact of the TTF Programme?

Yes indeed! To give you an example, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) courses are quite popular but we were struggling to get qualified AAT practitioners to deliver them. Through Taking Teaching Further, we have been able to bring in practising AAT qualified accountants who can now deliver those courses.

What tips would you offer other colleges who are recruiting onto the Taking Teaching Further programme for the first time?

You need a joined-up approach with HR and heads of department to identify the right vacancies for the Taking Teaching Further programme. The other advice I’d give is to use the TTF team at the ETF – they’re very supportive and they want the project to work and be really successful. If you are at all uncertain about the eligibility of candidates or the way the programme works, get in contact with them, their advice is invaluable. I’ve experienced a lot of projects in my career and this one is very supportive and very accessible, so use it!

Applications for Round Five of Taking Teaching Further are open until 15 December 2022. For details, visit the Taking Teaching Further page of the ETF website. Advice on recruiting and retaining teachers through Taking Teaching Further from providers including East Kent College Group is available here.