Cash for trainee teachers fails to lift recruitment

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The Independent Online

Recruits to teacher training have risen by just 3.8 per cent despite boasts by the Government that new training salaries have boosted applications by 50 per cent.

Recruits to teacher training have risen by just 3.8 per cent despite boasts by the Government that new training salaries have boosted applications by 50 per cent.

Earlier this month, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, told the Labour Party conference of the increase in applications after the salaries of up to £10,000 were announced in March.

However, official figures show that the actual number of people being accepted on one-year secondary training courses is up just 3.8 per cent on last year. In some of the main shortage subjects, such as maths and science, the number of entrants has fallen.

Universities and colleges say that many of those coming forward to train are unsuitable or do not have the right qualifications.

Teacher shortages have led to four-day weeks for two schools - Corby Community College, Northamptonshire, and Beechwood School in Slough, Berkshire - in the past month.

The figures for the end of September, when most students have registered for this year's courses, show acceptances for maths down nearly 4 per cent on last year, those for physics down 13 per cent and English down 1.8 per cent. Chemistry remains virtually unchanged.

The Government has, however, succeeded in attracting more trainees for modern languages and more design and technology specialists. French is up 7.5 per cent, German by 18.5 per cent and design and technology by 30 per cent. Biology and combined science have also improved slightly.

John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, who collated the figures, said: "It looks as though the Government will not hit its target in maths and in some sciences. It may hit the overall target in science but only because there are a lot of biology recruits. Despite the big improvement in the number of design and technology students, they will still fall short of the target."

Mary Russell, of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "It is very disappointing for everybody. Whenever there is an initiative of this sort you get people applying who are not appropriate. They don't realise that we have to be very careful."

Alan Smithers, of Liverpool University, said the Government was being "disingenuous" in emphasising application figures. "What counts is the actual number of recruits. Ministers need to address the fact that teachers' starting salaries and career prospects are not as good as those for other graduates," Professor Smithers said.

Ted Wragg, professor at Exeter University, said: "Even institutions at the bottom of the heap realise it's not worth taking someone who won't make the grade. It isn't a question of getting people who are adequate. Teachers these days need to have a certain toughness."

A senior government source said that it would not be possible to judge the training salaries until they had been in place for a full year. "The early signs are encouraging," he said. "We have prevented what would have been a very serious decline in recruitment this year... The graduate market is a very competitive one. We want to use the training salaries to have a recruitment drive in the coming year."

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