Courses target `second career' teachers

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Adults in search of a second career are being invited to try their hand at teaching during three-day government-funded "taster courses" aimed at combating a classroom recruitment crisis, writes Lucy Ward.

Potential teachers of five subjects facing a serious staff shortage spend a day in school and two days with tutors learning more about the profession.

In the classroom, they may take the register, observe lessons or may be offered the chance to teach briefly under supervision.

The scheme, run by London University's Institute of Education, comes shortly after the Government announced proposals for "fast-track" teacher training, in which would-be teachers with some classroom experience can qualify for the profession in three months.

That initiative, prompted by the severe shortfall in some curriculum subjects, was greeted warily by teaching union leaders, who suggested the current year-long postgraduate course was most appropriate for teacher training.

The subjects covered by the taster courses, which are backed by the Teacher Training Agency, are physics and broad science, maths, modern foreign languages, religious education and design and technology.

Candidates applying will take the courses during October and November, and will spend a day in the classroom in one of 170 partner secondary schools approved by the Institute.

They will also learn about recent changes in education, including qualifications and the national curriculum, and study other aspects of a teaching career, such as pastoral work.

Surveys for the TTA revealed a need "to attract more high quality entrants to the teaching profession".

Reports by the schools inspection agency Ofsted have highlighted the need for specialist teachers in RE, and new developments in the subject have increased demand.

Design and technology, also a shortage subject, would benefit from having qualified people with industrial experience to teach at GCSE level, the TTA believes.

Carol Macaskill, head of the institute's initial teacher education section, said the courses might appeal to adults seeking a new career after being made redundant.

"Downsizing in the City and in industry may mean people are looking for a second career," she said. "We are spreading awareness of the possibilities, and trying to give an idea of the pos- sibilities of teaching."