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Four out of ten trainees quit teaching early, report warns

High drop-out rate wastes £90m each year and raises questions over colleges

Four out of 10 trainee teachers fail to enter a classroom after finishing their course, according to a report published today.

A snapshot survey taken six months after they had completed their training – for which the bill is about £87m a year – revealed only 63 per cent were teaching in state schools.

That means around 8,700 trainees on PGCE courses failed to take up a state school job after the course finished at a cost of £10,000 a head. The majority left teaching all together.

With figures showing a further 16 quit within their first three years, it also means there are more qualified teachers in the country not involved in education than in the classroom.

The research showed that the biggest drop-out rates were in subjects like maths and modern foreign languages, where those entering had low qualifications to begin with and which have the biggest shortages of teachers. In maths only 43 per cent had good degrees and 68 per cent went into teaching. Science fared badly, too.

Professor Alan Smithers, from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, which carried out the research, said: "We are training twice as many teachers as we need in order to reach a minimum level of staffing."

He added: "These figures must be a cause for concern. Teacher trainees in crucial subjects seem underqualified and the training process seems very wasteful. No-one would, I think suggest that having a good grasp of one's subject is not a very important part of teacher quality."

Professor Smithers' research highlights the low qualifications of students entering PGCE courses – with less than three-fifths of the recruits to undergraduate teacher training courses having two A-levels. The worst qualified were would-be science teachers on initial teacher training courses – where only 31.1 per cent had two A levels. Professor Smithers said the low qualifications meant that, in many cases, teachers would be taking a lesson in a subject they were not qualified themselves. Their pupils could even be just as qualified as they were.

The research revealed that teachers who learned on the job through school or work-based training were most likely to stay on in the profession, with 80 per cent who had trained within schools becoming teachers after they had finished their training.

It recommends that more weight should be given to school-based training schemes. One of the most successful of these has been Teach First, which takes high-flying graduates with top level degrees who have not trained to be teachers and places them in some of the country's most challenging inner city schools.

A breakdown shows that around 15 per cent of trainees drop out of their PGCE courses before they have finished, four per cent go into independent schools and 4.5 per cent follow other teaching routes. In addition, 13 per cent are still looking for their first job after six months. The rest have given up on teaching or cannot be traced.