£4,000 cash offers fail to stem maths teacher crisis

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The introduction of £4,000 "golden hellos" three years ago has failed to stem a crisis in maths teaching in secondary schools.

Figures released yesterday show there are 20 per cent, or 320, fewer trainees than six years ago when academics first began analysing teacher recruitment statistics.

They also show that maths teachers are the worst qualified teachers, with fewer gaining good degree passes than in any other subject. The upshot, according to headteachers, is that thousands of pupils are still taught maths by a teacher not trained in it.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "There is no doubt about it at all. Schools that can't recruit maths teachers are having to employ non-maths specialists or people for whom maths is not their principal subject.

"We're doing better than we were across a number of subjects but maths stands out as a particularly difficult area."

The analysis of teacher training recruitment figures was carried out by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, from Liverpool University's Centre for Education and Employment Research, and was based on information supplied by the Government's Teacher Training Agency (TTA).

It concludes: "Recruitment to some secondary subjects continues to be difficult. The maths intake, while 269 (26 per cent) up on the nadir of 1998-99 was still 320 (20 per cent) down on 1996-97.

"The entry qualifications for maths are the lowest of all subjects and proportionally fewer of the final-year trainees enter teaching." Many take more lucrative jobs in industry, according to teachers' leaders.

The figures are partially offset by the recruitment of adults wanting to retrain as maths teachers through the new graduate training programme. This route is responsible for attracting an extra 205 trainees. However, the analysis says: "Given the difficulty in filling the maths places it is not surprising that the entry qualifications should be the lowest of the teacher trainees (only 36 per cent have good degree passes compared to 72 per cent in the classics). It is also true that a lower than average proportion make it to the classroom, though the 70 per cent in 2001-02 is considerably better than the 59 per cent in 1996-07."

The figures show an overall rise in the number of newly qualified teachers who actually take up jobs in the classroom within six months of qualifying - 84.5 per cent compared with 80 per cent last year. They also show a marked increase in the number of "thirtysomethings" wanting to become teachers - 38 per cent of recruits nowadays are over 30.

However, the recruits to primary teaching courses are still "predominantly white females". Only 13 per cent are male while 6 per cent are from ethnic minorities - the same as in the previous two years.

Michael Day, the TTA's director of funding and quality, said: "The fact that more newly-qualified teachers are going straight into school shows they are confident they are well trained and thoroughly prepared for their new careers."