Teacher incentives 'may waste millions'

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The Independent Online

Millions of pounds a year could be wasted under plans to pay £6,000 to trainee teachers who may never work in schools, union leaders said yesterday.

Millions of pounds a year could be wasted under plans to pay £6,000 to trainee teachers who may never work in schools, union leaders said yesterday.

They warned that government efforts to increase recruitment would not guarantee more teachers in the classroom.

Nearly one in seven of those who finish postgraduate teacher training courses does not take up a job in school.

Current targets aim for 20,000 people to enter postgraduate training this autumn, 14,000 for secondary and 6,000 for primary schools. If one in seven postgraduates dropped out, the bill for their bursaries would reach £17.1m.

Payments to trainee secondary school teachers will start in September, while wages for primary trainees will be paid from the autumn of 2001.

Teachers in shortage subjects such as maths, languages, science and technology, will also be paid a £4,000 "golden hello" after their first year in teaching, while the package for élite "fast track" trainees will reach nearly £15,000, including an additional £4,500 bursary.

Schools that take on trainees to learn on the job will be given £13,000 a year to cover their salaries. But the bursaries will not apply to people on four-year Bachelor of Education degrees, leading to fears that these courses will wither on the vine.

The £6,000 wages, equivalent to £150 a week during a nine-month course, will be payable whether or not students eventually work in schools.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said the Government needed to "add momentum to the drive to attract more talented people into the profession".

He said attaching conditions to the wages was impractical and insisted: "We cannot get people into the classroom unless we get them into training. That is a prerequisite. What people can see is financial support for training but also a profession that can reward them."

Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, added: "Once they have gone into teaching we think the buzz of teaching will keep them there."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, welcomed the announcement, but warned that payments must be conditional to ensure trainees actually worked in schools. He said: "A substantial number of teachers who achieve the training qualification go into other jobs and, if the proposed salary payment is not dependent on taking up a teaching post, then resources will have been wasted."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "People will go in one door and straight out the other - that's a real possibility. There's a genuine flaw in the proposals and money could go down the drain."