FORMER Tory party treasurer Lord Ashcroft may no longer be a fan of David Cameron, but he still knows how to profit from Conservative government policies.
As the Tories’ teacher training strategy has helped create a big shortage of teachers which supply agencies are busy exploiting, Ashcroft has personally moved into the teacher supply business himself.
As education secretary in the coalition, Michael Gove tried to shift teacher recruitment away from university teacher training departments and their Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) qualifications (he claimed they were dominated by what he called a leftish “Blob”), towards schools themselves through something called School Direct.
Failed policies of the 1990s
As the Eye reported back in 2013, School Direct, run by Charlie Taylor, a former Etonian schoolmate of Cameron’s, looked set to repeat the failed Tory teacher training policies of the 1990s. Alas, Gove’s successor Nicky Morgan stuck with the plans, and the latest Department for Education (DfE) figures confirm that the Eye was right: School Direct is filling only 60 percent of the 15,000 trainee places allotted to it by the DfE, as the schools themselves haven’t the time or skill to recruit more. Meanwhile the dreaded “Blob” and the universities which still run PGCE courses have continued to fill around 90 percent of the 23,000 places allotted to them.
The growing shortage of new teachers is good news, however, for supply agencies with experienced teachers on their books. According to the National Union of Teachers, they are earning £733m a year in fees for filling school staff rooms.
Impellam, chaired by Lord Ashcroft and 52-percent owned by the Ashcroft children’s Lombard Trust fund, runs a variety of recruitment firms. Last year it bought Career Teachers Ltd, a supply agency with a £30m turnover. It already owned a smaller teacher supply agency, Celsian; and the new acquisition has added £3m profits to Ashcroft’s recruitment business.
So full marks to the peer for some pretty canny joined-up thinking. As funder of the “grassroots” Tory website ConservativeHome, which promoted Gove’s war against the “Blob” and backed his undermining of the PGCE, Lord Cashcroft can now profit from the shortages Gove’s policies helped to create.
PS: In some subjects, especially physics and maths, teacher shortages are so acute that the DfE and academy trusts are having to recruit abroad. One trust recently hired more than 60 teachers from Jamaica.