HUNDREDS of trainee teachers have been given bus tours of the district’s schools as part of a groundbreaking initiative to attract more of them to work in Bradford.

It is thought that Bradford is the first local authority in the country to offer the tours, which involve students being shown around different types of school to see the variety of jobs available and to “dispel myths” about working in the city's schools.

In the last academic year, 360 final year trainee teachers from across Yorkshire took part in the tours, with another 400 students taking part this academic year.

After they qualify, they are asked if they want to become part of a “talent bank” of teachers that can be used to fill vacancies in Bradford schools.

Of the 360 who took part in the tours last academic year, a quarter have now found jobs in Bradford schools after going through the talent bank.

The scheme has also reduced the percentage of schools reporting recruitment issues in the nursery and primary sector from 58 per cent to 32 per cent.

Organised by Bradford Council, the tours were started as a way to tackle problems in recruiting teachers in Bradford, helping to prevent an exodus of newly qualified teachers from the district, as well as enticing new teachers from Leeds and across the country to teach in the district.

This first trial year of the talent bank saw 90 NQTs getting jobs in Bradford schools.

The most recent tour took students who are training with the Bradford Birth to 19 School Centre for Initial Teacher Training around the district, with four busses touring 12 schools. Tours have also taken place for students from Leeds Beckett and Leeds Trinity Universities.

The Council recently ringfenced £660,000 over three years on work to help recruit more teachers, after concerns were raised that recent poor performance by the district in school league tables meant new teachers were moving out of Bradford for jobs in better performing areas.

The bus tours are followed by workshops called “Journey to Your First Teaching Post” in which candidates are given advice about applying for jobs, writing personal statements and preparing for their job interviews.

Bradford Council’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy manager Sara Rawnsley said: “The first year of the bus tours and talent bank has been hugely successful. It was launched in nursery and primary schools in its first year and is now being extended into secondary schools.

“The talent bank benefits both new teachers and schools. It provides teachers with preparation for their job interviews and gets them to think about the type of school they would like to work in and it has provided our schools with access to a pool of talented newly qualified teachers.

“But the talent bank is not just restricted to newly qualified teachers. I am keen to hear from experienced teachers, especially out of Bradford district, who would like the opportunity to come and work in our vibrant, diverse city – there is something for everyone here - from small rural schools to large inner city successful schools.

“The aim of our work is to get people who are thinking about going into teaching to think about Bradford and to see for themselves what life is like inside our schools.

“We also want people in Bradford to think about teaching. We want to make sure that we recruit and retain the best teachers possible. We know this approach is working with 90 teachers starting their careers in the district this year after having come on our bus tours.”

Among those was Olivia Rawson, 21, from Wakefield, who has started working at Bowling Park Primary in Bradford, having visited it during one of the tours.

She said: “Had I never visited Bowling Park on the bus tour, I may have never applied. The bus tour gave me an opportunity to look at a variety of schools in an area that I would probably have never thought about. The wide range of schools we toured helped me to address any misconceptions about Bradford I may have had.

“Before the bus tour, my perception of Bradford was very uncertain. I was unsure of what to expect from schools in the Bradford area or if I would be suited to the challenge of working there. I would definitely recommend teaching in Bradford. It has such a diverse culture and environment that brings along new challenges each day. The children in Bradford are brilliant as they want to and deserve to come to school. I believe that by working in Bradford, you can have a much bigger impact on the children as they deserve to have the opportunities to learn and enjoy school. I think many people may have the wrong perception on Bradford – it provides excellent opportunities for teachers, children and the whole community.”

Councillor Imran Khan, the council’s executive member for education, employment and skills, said: “We know that teaching in Bradford schools can be very rewarding and we are keen to hear from newly qualified and experienced teachers who are up for the challenge of making a difference to the lives of children in our district.”

One of the groups on the most recent bus tour was taken to three schools, Crossley Hall Primary, off Thornton Road, Cavendish Primary in Eccleshill and Beechcliffe Special School in Keighley, where they saw how different schools can require vastly different skills.

Senior staff at the school showed the trainee teachers, all in their final year, about the school environment, what particular skills are needed to work in their school, and what to expect on a day to day basis. Michael Thorpe, head of Crossley Hall, was with the trainees for the duration of the day, and said: “Getting your first job is the most important thing you’ll do. It sets the tone for your entire career. There are 160 primary schools in Bradford, and they might not all suit your styles. It is important you get the job right.”

Charlotte Farnell, 26, from Bradford, was on the tour and said: “I found it very insightful, particularly all the information we got on special educational needs. It was really useful to get out to these schools, and it was a good opportunity for them to advertise to us as well.”

Cheryl Stocker, 30, lives in Huddersfield, but wants to work in Bradford when she qualifies. She said: “Bradford deserves the best teachers.”

Katie Waring, head of initial teacher training at the teaching alliance, said: “I think the fact that they get to experience different schools and get to spend time talking to staff gives them a lot more confidence when applying for jobs. It is a great chance to see schools in Bradford."