Concerns have long-been raised about a struggle to recruit and retain key workers in the city, but three providers in Oxford are helping to bring in prospective teachers to staff the county’s schools.

Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University and Oxfordshire Teacher Training (OTT) all offer courses for people who want to become teachers, with various paths for achieving a qualification.

The latter provider is based at The Cherwell School in Oxford, with hubs in Banbury and Henley.

Recent graduates of the new part-time course have shared their experiences of training, and encouraged more people to consider a career in teaching.

Mum-of-two Leanne Knight chose to study part-time, meaning she was able to continue working as a teaching assistant while she studied.

She said: “The training experience was brilliant – though, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy.

“There were some very intense periods, that were challenging and exhausting, but support from [OTT] was fantastic. I never felt like I didn’t have someone to support me or talk things through with.

“The course content was really well thought out, exposing us to issues across the breadth of education.

“Everything had a purpose and ensured we went away from a session thinking about our learning and how it could impact upon the pupils we are teaching.”

The teacher said the combination of classroom placements, practical and theoretical learning helped to equip her with the knowledge and confidence she needed, adding: “I am in a job I love.”

Chloe Styles also trained at the same centre.

She started working in schools in 2009 as a deputy year leader, at The Cherwell School, where she was a former pupil.

Ms Styles said: “Once I had seen my last year group through, I decided to begin my teacher training.

“[OTT] was the obvious choice for me, not only because its base is on The Cherwell School site, but because it could meet my training needs as well.

“I had a baby around the time and the part-time course enabled me to both start a family and career training at the same time.”

She said she was able to learn content specific to her interest in geography, despite not having a degree in the subject.

The teacher added: “I finished feeling fully equipped to begin teaching in geography classes.

“I am really enjoying my job as a teacher and am so glad I put in the work and commitment to get here.”

Rebecca Hackwood said she chose OTT as an opportunity to learn on the job, and to study part-time to ensure she still had time for her two young children.

She added: “I consider the part-time course to be as thorough and comprehensive as that of my full-time colleagues – you don’t miss out on any element.

“I went straight into employment and feel confident and equipped ready for my new career.”

Oxfordshire Teacher Training started operating in 2015, and is run by the River Learning Trust – the same group in charge of many Oxfordshire academy schools, including The Cherwell.

Patrick Garton, director of OTT, said: “We have been delivering a range of different programmes for several years and as we have grown and become more established, we have been keen to identify ways in which we can bring more great people into the profession.

“Developing a part-time programme was a logical step for us and we put a lot of time and energy into researching and planning to ensure it was as effective as all our other options.

“It has been a real pleasure working with this first cohort, and seeing them start their careers in schools across Oxfordshire is fantastic.”

Councillors have recently called for action to keep more teachers in the county after they qualify.

A report compiled by an Oxfordshire County Council committee last month stated: “Schools report that recruitment of new teachers can be challenging, and that particularly after ‘growing their own’ and developing excellent teachers in their schools, they often then leave as the lack of Oxford salary-weighting makes house-buying unaffordable.”

Ofsted’s report for OTT in 2017, which rated its provision ‘outstanding’, praised work to tackle recruitment issues.

It said: “School leaders locally and further afield are delighted with the newly-qualified teachers they appoint from the partnership.”

“The work of the partnership is helping to meet local recruitment needs, including in schools with challenging circumstances.”

Oxford Mail – Online and in print February 2020